BRISBANE has ground its way to a 23-point win over the steadily improving North Melbourne at Blundstone Arena.
While it wasn't their prettiest footy, the Lions celebrated coach Chris Fagan's 100th game in charge with a mature performance, putting their foot down in the last quarter of the 9.14 (68) to 6.9 (45) victory.
ROOS v LIONS Full match coverage and stats
Small forward Lincoln McCarthy kicked two crucial goals in the win – one to halt a run of four straight North Melbourne majors in the second quarter, and another to take the margin to 15 at the start of the last.
It was a torrid opening stanza, with both sides struggling to break through to their own attacking 50.
After over-handballing somewhat in the first quarter, the Roos were more direct in the second, taking the lead halfway through the term after some long and tidy kicks into attack
But North’s scoring dried up as the rain tumbled down in the third term, with Brisbane beginning to control play and kicking for distance.
Eric Hipwood struggled in front of goal in the first half, but struck a decisive blow late in the third term, leapfrogging Shaun Atley with a tumbling mark and subsequently thumping home a shot from 50.
It took the lead back, and the Lions were never headed from that point.
North's defensive combination of Robbie Tarrant, Ben McKay, Josh Walker and Jack Ziebell held firm for three quarters, but the dam walls cracked open in the last as Lachie Neale, Jarryd Lyons and Zac Bailey began to dictate play out of the middle.
Ben Cunnington and Jy Simpkin were at their best in the middle of the ground, while Todd Goldstein (an astonishing 53 hitouts) was tireless in the ruck. Kayne Turner battled admirably against Charlie Cameron, but the clever Lion still managed to kick 2.3 from his five touches.
Lions’ midfield lapse
Brisbane missed the spark of suspended skipper Dayne Zorko, particularly in the first half where the team looked uncharacteristically flat. Bailey (29 disposals), Lyons (36) and Neale (30 and 10 clearances) worked their way into the match after the main break, scraping off the post-bye rust. Zorko's replacement, Rhys Mathieson, finished with 20 touches and three clearances.
The boundary line is no-one's friend
As the Blundstone Arena turf began to resemble an ice-rink, slick with rain, an astonishing six deliberate out of bounds/insufficient intent free kicks were paid in the third term alone. While some were debatable, there was no questioning Josh Walker's efforts in handballing over the line, despite his somewhat hopeful pointing in the direction of a potential teammate in the vicinity. Unfortunately for Walker, he was surrounded by Lions.
Having a Lark(ey) of a time
Rising North Melbourne key forward Nick Larkey became enough of a threat at the start of the second quarter, Harris Andrews replaced Marcus Adams as his opponent. Larkey was dominant in the term, despite the attentions of one of the best defenders in the AFL, combining well with Cam Zurhaar and marking strongly. He faded somewhat as supply dried up, but still finished with three goals.
NORTH MELBOURNE 1.2 4.3 5.6 6.9 (45)
BRISBANE 2.4 3.7 6.9 9.14 (68)
North Melbourne: Larkey 3, Zurhaar 2, Stephenson
Brisbane: Cameron 2, McCarthy 2, Daniher, Bailey, Hipwood, Neale, Robertson
North Melbourne: Cunnington, Goldstein, Simpkin, Ziebell, Davies-Uniacke, Thomas
Brisbane: Lyons, Neale, Bailey, McCarthy, McCluggage, McInerney
North Melbourne: Nil
North Melbourne: Young (unused)
Brisbane: T. Berry (unused)