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Match report: Hawks slog their way past gutsy Demons

Highlights: Hawthorn v Melbourne The Hawks and Demons clash in round 11
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 04: Isaac Smith of the Hawks in action during the 2016 AFL Round 11 match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Melbourne Demons at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on June 4, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Sean Garnsworthy/AFL Media)
Isaac Smith starred for the Hawks as they held off the Demons

HAWTHORN has held on against a brave Melbourne, with the reigning premiers drawing on their experience to win a wet weather tug of war by 18 points at the MCG on Saturday. 

The Hawks were challenged for three quarters and trailed for long periods, but for the fourth time this season found a way to win in tight circumstances, prevailing 11.16 (82) to 10.4 (64).

Full match coverage and stats 

Young forward Tim O'Brien and debutant Kade Stewart each kicked goals in the crucial last quarter, with the Hawks kicking away to win their eighth game of the season and embedding themselves in the top four race. 

It was the reigning premiers' 13th consecutive win against the Demons, dating back to 2006 when Neale Daniher was Melbourne's coach. 

Hawthorn's forwards were ultimately the difference, with Paul Puopolo kicking the fourth-quarter goal that broke the Demons' backs, and classy tall Jack Gunston kicking a game-high three goals in his 100th game for the Hawks. 

Five talking points: Hawthorn v Melbourne

Defender Josh Gibson was also a class above in defence, starring in his 200th game to finish with 18 possessions and five rebound 50s. 

The midfield battles were enthralling, with Sam Mitchell (27 possessions and eight inside 50s) standing up in the wet, Isaac Smith (29 and nine) providing rare run, and Jordan Lewis (29 and five) lifting when needed in the fourth quarter.

Melbourne arguably had the best on-ballers on the ground however, with Bernie Vince (36 and 11 clearances), Dom Tyson (32 and nine) and Nathan Jones (31 and eight) combining to give the Dees a 51-39 advantage in clearances.

They were ultimately shadowed in the final term, with the Hawks' experience and hardness telling when it mattered. 

 

Alastair Clarkson's team handled the wet conditions better, out-tackling the Dees 108-68 and kicking long far more often.   

"We were really pleased with the way we ground the game out and found a way to win in pretty difficult conditions for both sides," Clarkson said

"There were a lot of errors but our intent and our tackling and endeavour to try and stay in the contest throughout the game was pretty good. 

"We've had 27 scoring shots and they've had 14 so we've dealt with them in terms of scoring opportunity but weren't able to capitalise."

 

The Demons jumped the Hawks with back-to-back goals in the opening 10 minutes of the game, but it was only a matter of time until the Hawks settled and asserted themselves. 

Mitchell was the instigator for the Hawks in the midfield and classy teammates Gibson and Gunston joined him, with their skills allowing them to play dry weather football while the Demons fumbled in the wet. 

The trio led a four-goal run as the reigning premiers built a 17-point lead at quarter time.

Melbourne adjusted after the first break, kicking longer and competing harder at the coalface, with Tyson leading the charge with 12 second-quarter possessions and a goal.

The Demons went on a five-goal-to-one run, getting on top in the contested ball and allowing key forwards Jesse Hogan and Jack Watts, who spent some time in the ruck, to get involved in the game. 

Both Watts and Hogan would fade, however, finishing with three goals between them.

The Demons are now losing touch with the top eight and will fall two games behind eighth-placed Adelaide if the Crows beat St Kilda on Sunday.

Coach Paul Roos took a glass half-full approach, with the 18-point margin the closest the Demons have got to Hawthorn in their 13-game losing streak. 

"I think today was a really strong indication of how far we've come as a footy club," the coach said. 

"To be 20-odd points down and get in front … it's probably just the moments where we make mistakes and their class and their ability to keep playing the game [that was the difference]. 

"The effort was fantastic, and given the youth we had in our side and the experience they had in theirs, we were really pleased.

 

MEDICAL ROOM
Hawthorn: Jack Gunston is in doubt for next week's clash against Essendon after his right leg was stomped on during the fourth quarter. The sharpshooter was taken off halfway through the term and didn't return, but the Hawks are confident he will be OK. They may choose not to risk him on a six-day break. 

Melbourne: The Demons escaped with a clean bill of health, with first-year midfielder Clayton Oliver returning from a thigh injury without incident. Jack Trengove was also left unscathed in his first senior game since round two, 2014.  

NEXT UP
The Demons have a nine-day break ahead of their Queen's Birthday clash against Collingwood at the MCG and will be looking to win the blockbuster for the first time since 2007. The Hawks face Essendon at Etihad Stadium on Friday night. 

HAWTHORN     4.5   6.7   8.14   11.16 (82)
MELBOURNE    2.0   7.2   10.2  10.4 (64)

GOALS
Hawthorn: Gunston 3, Breust 2, O'Brien 2, Rioli, Hill, Stewart, Puopolo
Melbourne: Kent 2, Watts 2, Dawes, Petracca, Hogan, vandenBerg, Tyson, Jones

BEST 
Hawthorn: Mitchell, Lewis, Gibson, Birchall, Smith, Frawley, Gunston
Melbourne: Tyson, Vince, Jones, Watts, T.McDonald, Kent

INJURIES 
Hawthorn: Jack Gunston (right ankle)
Melbourne: Nil

Reports: Bernie Vince (Melbourne) for striking in the fourth quarter 

Umpires: Bannister, Ryan, Pannell

Official crowd: 41,833 at the MCG

Jack Trengove gets a handball away during his long-awaited comeback game. Picture: AFL Media