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Nothing to rue this week

Nailed it: Kangaroo Lindsay Thomas celebrates a goal during North’s 68-point win over St Kilda.

Nailed it: Kangaroo Lindsay Thomas celebrates a goal during North’s 68-point win over St Kilda. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

NORTH MELBOURNE 9.7 13.10 17.14 19.19 (133) ST KILDA 1.0 4.3 9.3 10.5 (65)
GOALS North Melbourne: Black 5, Harvey 4, Petrie 4, Thomas 3, Mullett, Bastinac, Wright. St Kilda: Riewoldt 3, Stanley 2, Geary, Steven, Webster, Montagna, Milne.
BEST North Melbourne: Goldstein, Black, Harvey, Wells, Swallow, Petrie, Mullett, Hansen. St Kilda: Ray, Dal Santo, Gwilt, Steven, Montagna.
UMPIRES Schmitt, Chamberlain, Foot.

Were this any team other than North Melbourne this game was comfortably over in a quarter. But this was North Melbourne, the team with a propensity this year to watch as leads slipped through its fingers like desert sands.

So even the most emphatic first quarter was met with a quiet patience and nervous uncertainty of what might yet wriggle away.

North's Brent Harvey comes out for his 350th game with kids, Hudson (in his arms), Lacie and Cooper. Click for more photos

AFL Round 10, North Melbourne v St Kilda

North Melbourne's Brent Harvey celebrated his 350th AFL game with a four-goal haul in his side's 68-point win over St Kilda at Etihad Stadium. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

It would prove a pessimist's fear for it was a day of warm celebration for Brent Harvey and Daniel Wells not the hollow disbelieving ache of last week. The Saints were the stunned, slowly unfolding car crash in this game, well at least in the first quarter which proved to be as brutal as it was defining.

Consider the numbers at quarter-time: Kangaroos 132 disposals, St Kilda 51. North 20 inside 50s St Kilda 4. Twelve St Kilda players had two touches or less. North had 40 uncontested marks, St Kilda nine. And there were eight free kicks to North and none to St Kilda.

Numbers can be misleading, these weren't. St Kilda was deplorable, North irresistible. All this culminated unsurprisingly in a scoreline that delivered North a 55-point lead in 33 minutes of play. The Roos were outrageously dominant.

Certainly North arrived in the match with a grittier determination to atone for last week's failure in conceding a match-winning lead to Adelaide, but further they arrived with a pep to ensure the game milestones of Harvey (350 games) and Wells (200) were appropriately recognised.

That opening term made sure it was so. From the moment North accepted the advantage of two free kicks for the first two goals the players were pressing St Kilda and the Saints were obliging them.

St Kilda had begun the match with an unusual structure. Ruckman Ben McEvoy was forward alongside Rhys Stanley, who was also a surprise in attack for he has spent most of his time in defence. The tweaking of the forward structure was rendered irrelevant in a quarter when the Saints only welcomed the ball forward five times.

It was remarkable that North's defenders were able to access so much more of the ball - Scott Thompson for instance had 11 touches in the first term while his opponent Nick Riewoldt had one - despite the ball so seldomly going forward for St Kilda.

Riewoldt was being worked over by a double team that ran him from one side of the ground to the other.

Stanley was leaving the forward line to join the stoppages in midfield acting as a third tall man jumping into the contest but it was having no discernible effect on the play. St Kilda was hitting the ball down and North was taking it away at will. North midfielders Ryan Bastinac, Shaun Atley, Aaron Mullett, Harvey and Wells fed their forwards with exquisite delivery.

Aaron Black enjoyed the task of first-gamer Jackson Ferguson. Black booted three on Ferguson in the opening term (and another when Ferguson was on the bench).

North was embracing its moment and indulging games record-holder Harvey.

The most satisfying moment came when Harvey was able to gather a handball, take four bounces running through half-forward, sneak a peek over his shoulder to realise he was being chased by Sam Fisher and accelerate away. Black ran across to block Fisher and allow Harvey to finish his work with a goal.

St Kilda stemmed the bleeding after quarter-time by switching play more aggressively and moving the ball more freely.

FAST STARTERS

The Roos are the best starters in the business - having won nine out of 10 first quarters this year - but this was at another level. Only three times in the club's history have the Roos amassed a higher quarter-time advantage. The scoreline - 9.7 (61) to 1.0 (6) - was telling enough. But some of the other numbers were incredible. Disposals? 132-51. Inside 50s? 20-5. Kicks? 82-29. Uncontested marks? 40-9. But the most pivotal numbers underscored North's dominance in the midfield. The Roos owned the clearances 15-6.

BOOMING RUN

It would have been on the wishlist of every North supporter - watching Brent Harvey run on to a ball on the wing, burst clear of his opponent, take four bounces, dodge another couple of Saints and then slam home the goal from 15 metres. Over 350 games, Boomer has delivered for the fans and he did again in his milestone game, bringing the crowd to its feet with a stunning run-and-carry goal early in the second quarter.

DAY TO FORGET

Young St Kilda key defender Jackson Ferguson will always remember his first game. It turned out to be a baptism by fire for the 20-year-old, standing North Melbourne's Aaron Black in a quarter where the ball just kept coming in. Ferguson conceded three goals to Black and then another after being shifted on to Sam Wright. By early in the third quarter, he had been subbed off. - MATT MURNANE

1 comment so far

  • The Saints are well on track to be a bottom 4 side this season. What the hell is going on?

    Commenter
    Tim of Altona
    Date and time
    June 03, 2013, 10:44AM

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