CARETAKER coach Leigh Adams has led North Melbourne to the biggest upset of the season in a stunning four-point win over Richmond.
Cam Zurhaar kicked six goals – including the match-winner with less than three minutes left – as the Kangaroos triumphed 14.8 (92) to 11.22 (88) at Marvel Stadium on Saturday.
KANGAROOS v TIGERS Full match coverage and stats
It snapped a 14-match losing streak in Adams' first game in charge after taking the reins from David Noble.
The shock result was eerily similar to the Kangaroos' first game under Rhyce Shaw in 2019, when they upset flag-bound Richmond immediately following Brad Scott's exit.
It was a blow to the Tigers' finals chances, leaving them clinging to eighth spot on percentage ahead of a clash with Fremantle in round 19.
There is doubt over Toby Nankervis' availability for that match after he was reported over an incident where he roughed up Flynn Perez, though there didn't appear to be much in it.
Zurhaar was the Kangaroos' hero in attack as Jy Simpkin (34 disposals), Luke Davies-Uniacke (28) and Hugh Greenwood (24) played integral roles in the midfield.
Ben McKay starred in defence and Paul Curtis (14 disposals, three goals) was also important.
TERRIBLE TIGERS Dimma responds to the loss
Richmond had plenty of strong contributors through the middle – including Dion Prestia (26 disposals), Trent Cotchin and Jayden Short (24 each) – but let itself down in front of goal.
Veteran spearhead Jack Riewoldt kicked 2.6 and third-gamer Noah Cumberland 3.4, with Riewoldt (twice), Noah Balta and Shai Bolton all missing chances in the final quarter of what could prove to be a costly loss.
Adams simplified North Melbourne's attacking plan and implored his players to express themselves by taking the game on.
It wasn't always pretty – Adams expected mistakes – but it led to the Kangaroos' highest score of the season.
Zurhaar had five goals from five kicks to half-time as the focal point, helping his side to a 32-point lead on the back of remarkable efficiency.
The Kangaroos' 10.2 came from 23 forward entries, while Richmond had 3.12 from 32 entries.
The margin was cut to 10 points by three-quarter time and memories of last round's big fade-out, when North Melbourne threw away a comfortable lead against Collingwood, no doubt haunted the Kangaroos.
Richmond hit the front when Jack Graham converted a free kick but Zurhaar responded when he gleefully accepted Todd Goldstein's expert hitout at a boundary throw-in and snapped truly.
The Tigers had one last chance in the final minute when activated substitute Jake Aarts marked inside 50.
But Aarts played on and eventually saw a snap rushed through by North's desperate defence.
Sign him up, Roos!
Out of contract at the end of the season, Zurhaar's future is unclear. If North needed reminding as to why it should be eager to re-sign the forward, the club's leading goalkicker in 2020, it got it on Saturday. Zurhaar's bag of six was the biggest of his career, and included the match-winner after five came in the first half. The 24-year-old is capable of breaking a game open quickly, as he showed at Marvel Stadium, and is the kind of talent the Roos cannot afford to lose.
Tigers blow it again, and again, and again
If the manner of last week's after-the-siren loss to Gold Coast hurt Richmond, it showed a new way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Not only did inaccurate goalkicking hurt as they were left trying to catch the Kangaroos, the Tigers led thanks to Jack Graham's goal. Then, they let the most dangerous forward on the ground – Zurhaar – burst free at a stoppage to put the Roos back in front. Jason Castagna's decision not to handball over the top in last week's loss to the Suns was replayed repeatedly, and Jake Aarts took a mark with 45 seconds left for a potential match-winner against the Roos, only to inexplicably play on and eventually see a rushed shot punched through.
Richmond's Marvel misery
The loss marked the Tigers' fourth straight at Marvel Stadium. It has been just over 12 months since Richmond coach Damien Hardwick said "I hate coming here" about the Docklands stadium, and the Tigers have lost every game there since. This result may be particularly costly, and one the Tigers should have avoided after having 11 more scoring shots than the Kangaroos.
NORTH MELBOURNE 4.0 10.2 12.2 14.8 (92)
RICHMOND 2.5 3.12 8.16 11.22 (88)
North Melbourne: Zurhaar 6, Curtis 3, Goldstein, Scott, Simpkin, Stephenson, Young
Richmond: Cumberland 3, Riewoldt 2, Baker, Balta, Graham, Miller, Rioli, Short
North Melbourne: Zurhaar, Simpkin, Davies-Uniacke, McKay, Greenwood, Curtis
Richmond: Prestia, Short, Cotchin, Cumberland, Nankervis
North Melbourne: Larkey (heel)
Richmond: Gibcus (shoulder)
North Melbourne: Charlie Lazzaro (replaced Larkey in the fourth quarter)
Richmond: Jake Aarts (replaced Gibcus in the fourth quarter)