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Roos crush Dons early and keep clean sheet intact

Highlights: Essendon v North Melbourne The Bombers and Kangaroos clash in round eight
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 14: Ben Brown of the Kangaroos celebrates a goal with Brent Harvey of the Kangaroos  during the 2016 AFL Round 08 match between the Essendon Bombers and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne on May 14, 2016. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media)
Brent Harvey and Ben Brown celebrate during the Kangaroos' win

THE FINAL scoreline in North Melbourne's win over Essendon said many things about Saturday's scrappy and uneventful game, but probably one thing above all: that this was a contest everyone – including perhaps North Melbourne itself – expected the Roos would win.

The Roos continued their unbeaten start to 2016 by beating the Bombers by 14 points at Etihad Stadium, controlling the contest and claiming the 10.14 (74) to 8.12 (60) win, despite an impressive second-half fightback from Essendon.

Five talking points: Essendon v North Melbourne

In doing so, the Roos equalled their club record for the most consecutive wins to start a season, matching the mark set in 1978 when North made the Grand Final.

Reaching the premiership decider is clearly the aim for the Roos this year, and their position perched on top of the ladder shows them to be well on track.

But, to be truthful, their win over Essendon provided few lessons or clues as to how close to premiership glory they really are, for the gap between the sides was as expected. And they never really got out of second gear.

Older hands Brent Harvey (on his 38th birthday), Andrew Swallow (27 disposals), Sam Gibson (36 and 15 marks) and Nick Dal Santo (28 disposals) were strong contributors, but it was perhaps the performances of lesser lights Majak Daw (two goals) and Brad McKenzie (19) that would have been most pleasing for coach Brad Scott. 

Heading into the clash, North's powerful tall forward set-up looked likely to break Essendon's undermanned defence, and Daw, Ben Brown, Jarrad Waite and Drew Petrie combined for seven of North's 10 majors. 

Their ability to not only attract the ball near goal but also make it theirs was one thing to separate the teams – North had 14 marks inside-50 to Essendon's seven.

"We kept Essendon to their lowest half-time score in 100 years so that clearly was a good part of the game for us," North coach Brad Scott said.

"I think it's a real challenge for us in our progression as a football club that we don't just mentally, even subconsciously, think 'well this game's in hand so I don't need to do the things that got us into this position in the first place.'"

WATCH: Brad Scott's full post-match media conference

But Essendon's effort couldn't be questioned. Stand-in captain Brendon Goddard tried hard with 38 disposals, emerging star Zach Merrett collected 36 and first-year midfielder Darcy Parish was again confident with his 24 touches.

Orazio Fantasia (two goals) provided some spark across half-forward, while Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti's run off half-back created chances.

The Bombers struggled without the skill of David Zaharakis, who was kept to just 12 disposals by tagger Ben Jacobs. It was a valuable job by the much-improved North midfielder, as Zaharakis entered the clash averaging 30 touches a game.

An ugly first term set the tone for an uninspiring afternoon as North broke away to a four-goal lead at the opening change without looking near its best. Essendon's pressure was up – it led tackles, clearances and inside-50 entries for the term – but didn't have the polish to finish opportunities. 

An inability to make the most of their chances has been a recurring problem for the Bombers so far this year (and in previous seasons), something that wasn't an issue for North in the opening quarter.

The second quarter showed this would be a game that would very much stick to script. Within moments of the term beginning, Lindsay Thomas had joined the list of goalkickers, Brown and Daw had dribbled through snaps with little pressure and North had jumped to a seven-goal lead.

Essendon's half-time score of 0.4 was its lowest score in a first half in more than a century – when it kicked 0.3 in round one, 1915. But instead of wishing for a mercy rule, the Bombers responded in the third term.

"We were disappointed at half-time, because it was just basic errors that were really hurting us," coach John Worsfold said.

We weren't that far behind on a lot of the measures, so at half-time the key thing was the players had to believe they could go out and maintain the effort and they would get a better result."

WATCH: John Worsfold's full post-match media conference

Orazio Fantasia broke the goal drought within two minutes, second-gamer Mason Redman kicked his first goal and set up another, and Fantasia backed up his first effort with another clever goal to cut the lead to 35 points at the final change. 

North allowed the Bombers to edge a little closer, and back-to-back goals from Kyle Langford saw Essendon creep within 22 points with six minutes remaining. 

However, although appearing tired after a big start to the season, North's experience and maturity prevailed. But only just. 

MEDICAL ROOM
Essendon: Ryan Crowley received a corked thigh in the first term but ran it out and finished the game with little trouble. There weren't any other injuries problems for the Dons. 

North Melbourne: The Roos' main casualty from the clash was Mason Wood, who was left concussed after taking a strong pack mark in the third quarter. Wood crashed to the ground and hit his head on the turf and left the field on a stretcher.

UP NEXT
North will head into next Saturday night's meeting with Carlton at Etihad Stadium eyeing a club record ninth-straight win to start a season. The Bombers will play the next day at Docklands, facing St Kilda in the twilight match.

Former teammates Nathan Grima and Drew Petrie fight for the ball at Etihad Stadium. Picture: AFL Media

ESSENDON                   0.2   0.4   5.5    8.12 (60)
NORTH MELBOURNE  4.2   8.6   10.10  10.14 (74)

GOALS
Essendon: Fantasia 2, Langford 2, Daniher 2, Redman, Cooney
North Melbourne: Petrie 2, Daw 2, Waite 2, Wood, Jacobs, Thomas, Brown 

BEST
Essendon: Merrett, Goddard, Fantasia, Baguley, Cooney, Daniher
North Melbourne: Jacobs, Thompson, Tarrant, Gibson, Goldstein, Daw, Harvey

INJURIES
Essendon: Crowley (thigh)
North Melbourne: Wood (concussion)

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Brown, Ryan, Fleer 

Official crowd: 30,321 at Etihad Stadium