GOLD Coast has cruised into the bye with finals firmly in its sights, dismissing North Melbourne by 62 points at TIO Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Suns’ second Darwin win in the past seven days came after they trailed by 17 points at quarter-time, but used a powerful seven-goal second term to bankroll a 15.19 (109) to 7.5 (47) victory.
It was their fourth win in five matches and levelled their win-loss ledger at six apiece, outside the top eight on percentage only.
SUNS v ROOS Full match coverage and stats
The win might have come at a cost though, with damaging half-back Lachie Weller suffering what appeared to be a serious knee injury in the final quarter.
It soured another professional performance by Gold Coast, who just like a week earlier against Hawthorn, had contributors all over the park.
In his 150th game, co-captain Touk Miller was a monster, and particularly important when his team needed a lift.
The 2021 Therabody All-Australian finished with 32 disposals, a career-high 13 clearances, eight tackles and 747m gained.
The small forwards were electric, with Izak Rankine leading the second quarter fightback with a miracle goal as part of his 16 disposal, two-goal outing. Malcolm Rosas Jnr and Joel Jeffrey again excited in front of their Darwin family and friends.
Matt Rowell (25 touches, nine clearances, 11 tackles) was important, and Connor Budarick (15 intercepts from 25 touches) played his best game since returning from a ruptured ACL.
Gold Coast racked up a club record 81 inside 50s to completely dominate after quarter-time and put the icing on the cake when defender Caleb Graham kicked his first career goal in the dying minutes.
What ended up being a 10th straight loss for the Kangaroos started with so much promise.
Coach David Noble mixed his forward line in the first quarter, as Todd Goldstein spent time in the goalsquare, allowing Nick Larkey to roam further afield.
It helped result in North leading by 17 points at the first change, kicking four goals with clever forward forays.
Suns win soured by Weller injury
Just when it looked like being the perfect 10 days in Darwin, Lachie Weller put Suns’ hearts in mouths in the final quarter. The dashing defender, who was in the midst of another wonderful outing to add to his terrific season, crumpled to the turf when he tried to step off his right foot. The 26-year-old clutched his right knee immediately and thumped the turf a handful of times before being helped off the ground.
Horne-Francis’ incredible goal
If there’s one highlight North fans will rewatch a few times during the week, it’s the third quarter goal from No.1 draft pick Jason Horne-Francis. The young South Australian was having a quiet afternoon, but lit up TIO midway through the term when he bobbled a handpass from Todd Goldstein from a forward 50 stoppage, gathered, spun out of Oleg Markov’s tackle, stepped Charlie Ballard and then snapped from close range. It was a fabulous finish from a player with enormous upside.
Second quarter avalanche
Gold Coast’s dominance in the second term was almost hard to believe. After looking a step off the pace against the hungry Kangaroos early, Brandon Ellis started the avalanche with an early goal from an exquisite Izak Rankine pass. Rankine then kicked a miraculous goal from the forward pocket minutes later and the Suns were away. All in all, they went inside 50 a whopping 29 times for the term, kicking 7.7, and raced to a 32-point half-time lead as the Kangaroos failed to score.
GOLD COAST 1.4 8.11 11.13 15.19 (109
NORTH MELBOURNE 4.3 4.3 7.3 7.5 (47)
Gold Coast: Day 2, Rankine 2, Ainsworth, Chol, Davies, Ellis, Graham, Holman, Jeffrey, Powell, Rosas, Rowell, Swallow
North Melbourne: Anderson, Davies-Uniacke, Goldstein, Horne-Francis, Larkey, Simpkin, Ziebell
Gold Coast: Miller, Budarick, Rowell, Anderson, Rankine, Markov, Rosas
North Melbourne: Walker, Davies-Uniacke, Goldstein, Anderson, McDonald
Gold Coast: Weller (knee)
North Melbourne: McKay (head)
Gold Coast: Jeremy Sharp (replaced Weller in fourth quarter)
North Melbourne: Atu Bosenavulagi (replaced Mackay in third quarter)