TALK about picking up where you left off.
GIANTS v KANGAROOS Full match coverage and stats
Nearly three months on from the club's brave come-from-behind round one victory, North Melbourne again displayed its trademark character and grit to cause a plucky boilover and overcome premiership contenders Greater Western Sydney on Sunday.
Five unanswered goals on either side of three-quarter time provided the foundations for the victory, with Shaun Higgins producing a masterful midfield display as the Kangaroos charged home to win 12.8 (80) to 8.12 (60) at Giants Stadium.
Higgins (28 disposals, six clearances) was the game's most influential midfielder and led from the front as the visitors stunned the Giants, with youngster Cameron Zurhaar (11 disposals, three goals) doing the bulk of the damage in attack.
The defeated Giants were best served by skipper Stephen Coniglio (19 disposals, 10 tackles) who battled hard all day, Lachie Whitfield (19 disposals) had his moments on the wing and former captain Callan Ward (21 disposals, one goal) emerged unscathed in his return from a knee reconstruction.
It continued North Melbourne's unbeaten start to the season after it overcame St Kilda with a shock comeback earlier in the year, with Rhyce Shaw's side now in a prime position to build on a campaign full of promise.
In a low-scoring contest – which saw just four goals kicked between the two sides in the first half – successive Giants goals midway through the third term had created a 12-point buffer, as the hosts threatened to kick clear for the first time in the match.
But a typically gritty Kangaroos side responded with three straight majors to reclaim the advantage by three-quarter time, then another two consecutive goals after the final change to completely secure control over the contest.
The hosts continued to apply pressure in the dying stages of the contest, but each time North Melbourne responded to walk away with an emphatic and satisfying win on the road.
Roos' raging bull provides the impetus
He might not be the biggest, nor the fastest, but there's something that makes Cameron Zurhaar a constant menace in the North Melbourne forward line. Zurhaar's physicality is his most noticeable attribute, but his smarts, nous and craft around goal is perhaps his best and most underrated quality. He can play as the second marking target behind Ben Brown in the Kangaroos forward line thanks to his efforts to find space and work his way to dangerous parts of the field and he profited from that innate ability on Sunday. Always the game's most dangerous attacking outlet, the former rookie finished with 11 disposals, two marks and three goals.
Young Kangas core comes to the fore
Among the many aspects of Sunday's superb victory that would have delighted coach Rhyce Shaw, the composure of his youngsters when it mattered most would have been up there as the most pleasing. When the Giants challenged early in the last quarter, it was the kids who shouldered the bulk of the responsibility in front of goal. Curtis Taylor and Bailey Scott each converted cool set-shots from tricky positions in the forward line, Tarryn Thomas snuck through a classy finish on the run, then Zurhaar showed his bravery to win a high free kick and finish with ease from directly in front. It came as North Melbourne piled on five unanswered goals on either side of three-quarter time to set up its significant win.
The Giant tag worked … until it didn't
Matt de Boer might not have found much of the footy in the first quarter, but he was just about the game's most influential player. The star Giants tagger had kept clearance king Ben Cunnington to just one handball at quarter time, before he switched to Shaun Higgins in the second term. However, having nullified one opponent, de Boer couldn't stop a second. Held to just two touches in the first quarter, Higgins had 13 disposals, four clearances and three tackles in the second term alone – all while being closely marshalled by de Boer. It led to a fascinating half-time decision for Leon Cameron, who switched de Boer alongside both damaging North midfielders at differing stages during the second half. Higgins finished with 28 disposals and six clearances, while Cunnington had 21 disposals and five clearances.
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 1.4 2.6 5.10 8.12 (60)
NORTH MELBOURNE 1.2 2.6 6.8 12.8 (80)
Greater Western Sydney: Finlayson 2, Perryman 2, Himmelberg 2, Ward, Cameron
North Melbourne: Zurhaar 3, Thomas 2, Goldstein, Brown, Pittard, Taylor, Scott, Polec, Ziebell
Greater Western Sydney: Ward, Whitfield, Coniglio, Caldwell, Haynes, Williams
North Melbourne: Higgins, Polec, Zurhaar, Goldstein, Tarrant, Atley, Dumont
Greater Western Sydney: Nil
North Melbourne: Nil