COLLINGWOOD has staked its claim as a flag contender, strangling North Melbourne in a 20-point victory on Saturday night.
It was a match which had been hyped as a battle of the heavyweights, but the Roos wilted under pressure, held goalless for the first time ever in the 4.4 (28) to 0.8 (8) result at Marvel Stadium.
KANGAROOS v MAGPIES Full match coverage and stats
Like most AFLW matches this season, the first term was a tussle, with both sides trading blows but struggling to make a meaningful impact on the scoreboard.
Aishling Sheridan's hot start to the season continued; the Pie pounced on a loose ball in the goalsquare to open her team's account.
It needed a moment of Chloe Molloy brilliance to clean up the scrappy first quarter, and she duly delivered, wheeling into space and snapping from 35 metres.
Collingwood sliced North Melbourne open the way the Kangaroos have done to so many teams in their short time in the competition, and the pressure caused usually sure-handed Roos to fumble.
North peppered the goals in the second quarter, but its accuracy (three behinds) was left wanting and it was made to pay when the dead-eye Jordan Membrey converted at the other end.
The Roos' usual blue-chip midfield was out-hassled and out-worked by their opponents, the combination of Bri Davey (31 touches), Jaimee Lambert (27) and Britt Bonnici (21) running rampant.
While the clearance count was even, the Pies had 62 more disposals, outworking the Roos on the outside.
The second half was a much tighter affair – North Melbourne held Collingwood to 1.2 in the second half – but once again inaccuracy proved to be the Roos' undoing, rushing and spraying shots on the run.
What next for the Roos?
One of the premiership fancies at the start of the year, the Roos have now lost two consecutive games to finals-bound sides in Melbourne and Collingwood. It's not panic stations yet, as North Melbourne has proven to be much stronger than the weaker sides in the competition, but it will make for a much tighter qualification race come April.
The Scott Gowans effect
Former North Melbourne coach Gowans found his way to Collingwood as a senior assistant after a COVID-induced restructure, and Pies leader Steve Symonds said his coaching recruit was more than handy this week. Most tellingly, the areas in which Collingwood beat North Melbourne – the midfield and general ball movement – are Gowans' responsibilities.
The rise and rise of Bri Davey
The Collingwood co-captain had an interrupted pre-season last year, her first at the Holden Centre after crossing from Carlton, but she had a clean run this summer. It's showing on the field, with the destructive midfielder dominant in the stoppages and willing her team forward, riding tackles and releasing the ball to a teammate after most would have lost possession. She finished with 31 disposals, 13 contested possessions and seven clearances.
"It was a red-hot game, it was a really contested game and both teams were going really hard at it. We made a couple of little errors, but our ability to keep at it and go to task was really important. Whether our group could have done that 12 months ago, I'm not sure." – Collingwood coach Steve Symonds
"The first quarter was a really, really tight quarter. From the coaches' box, it seemed like they just took their opportunities when they went forward a little bit better than what we did. After quarter-time, their ability to get outside of us hurt us. Their uncontested game, handball receives, uncontested marks, we weren't able to stem those." – North Melbourne coach Darren Crocker
NORTH MELBOURNE 0.0 0.3 0.5 0.8 (8)
COLLINGWOOD 2.2 3.2 3.4 4.4 (28)
North Melbourne: Nil
Collingwood: Molloy 2, Sheridan, Membrey
North Melbourne: Garner, Ashmore, Riddell, Bruton
Collingwood: Davey, Lambert, Bonnici, Molloy, Livingstone
North Melbourne: Bresnehan (split webbing)
Crowd: 2254 at Marvel Stadium
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