MELBOURNE brushed aside its recent scoring woes with a 98-point demolition of an insipid Gold Coast at Marvel Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The 18.20 (128) to 4.6 (30) victory kept the Dees in third place on the ladder with three rounds remaining, and more importantly, ran their forward line back into form.
SUNS v DEMONS Full match coverage and stats
Youngster Luke Jackson had a big day, booting a career-high four goals, while Ben Brown (four), Bayley Fritsch (two) and Kysaiah Pickett (two) all filled their boots.
While the forwards reaped the rewards, it was Melbourne's midfield that laid the early foundation, with Clayton Oliver putting on another masterclass with 35 disposals, including 12 clearances and a goal.
Christian Petracca (32) was also instrumental in the win, adding a goal of his own and racking up 15 score involvements.
In six matches since the bye, the Demons had topped 80 points just once, yet it had hit that mark by half-time, such was their dominance.
They generated 71 inside 50s to just 27, suffocating Gold Coast with relentless pressure until the sting went out of the contest in the final quarter.
Not much could be said for their opponent though, with the Suns carrying on from their horrible second half performance against Brisbane eight days earlier where they conceded 13 goals to one.
This time around they were slow, indecisive and second to the ball.
Melbourne kicked 14 successive goals from late in the first quarter until Sam Flanders added one late in the fourth.
The Demons jumped from the blocks quickly, kicking the first three goals of the game and taking a 20-point lead to the first break.
Their pressure was excellent and combined with some poor disposal from the Suns coming out of their back half, they generated a heap of turnovers that led directly to scoring shots.
Fritsch and Jackson had two goals apiece by quarter-time, while Brown got an early confidence booster with a mark on the lead and safe set shot from 30m.
Rock bottom for the Suns
In a season spotted with horror performances, this might have been the worst for Gold Coast. Since its bye the Suns have been thrashed by Fremantle and Port Adelaide, beaten by a one-win North Melbourne and flogged by Brisbane last week. But after 20 minutes of strong effort to open against Melbourne, the intensity fell off a cliff. Aside from reliable Touk Miller (34 disposals), some improvement from Matt Rowell (19), and a never-say-die attitude from Charlie Ballard, there wasn't much to take from this game. The effort was down and the ball movement poor, and even worse there seemed to be little to no fight.
Jackson's big day
After a blistering start to his second season, Luke Jackson has gone through a quiet patch in the past month. He changed that in dramatic fashion against the Suns, kicking a career-high four goals. The 19-year-old had two in the first quarter, one from a strong mark, and another two in the second. He was excellent at ground level and strong in the air, proving the perfect foil alongside Ben Brown and Tom McDonald. Could Jackson still make a late rush for the NAB AFL Rising Star Award?
Melbourne's forward clamps
The one positive sign that was obvious from the outset for Melbourne was its pressure around the contest. Nowhere was this more on show that inside its forward 50. Whether it was harassing the Suns into poor disposal errors – that led to easy intercept marks and re-entries into attack – or ferocious tackling, it screamed of a desperate team that wanted to keep the ball in attack. The Dees effected 11 tackles inside their forward 50 in the first quarter and 18 in the first half, with McDonald and Jackson both kicking goals directly from winning free kicks for strong tackles. They finished with a whopping 29 tackles inside 50 for the day.
GOLD COAST 3.2 3.3 3.3 4.6 (30)
MELBOURNE 6.4 12.8 17.14 18.20 (128)
Gold Coast: Burgess Sexton, Corbett, Flanders
Melbourne: Brown 4, Jackson 4, Fritsch 2, Pickett 2, Gawn 2, McDonald, Oliver, Petracca, Spargo
Gold Coast: Miller, Ballard, Rowell, Swallow
Melbourne: Oliver, Petracca, Harmes, May, Jackson, Brown, Viney
Gold Coast: Nil
Melbourne: McDonald (back)
Gold Coast: Will Brodie (unused)
Melbourne: James Jordon (replaced McDonald)