NORTH Melbourne has rebounded from two straight losses, overpowering Carlton in the second half to win by 22 points.
The Blues led by four points at half-time, but the Roos kicked five goals in the final term in the 9.5 (59) to 6.1 (37) win at UTAS Stadium on Saturday night.
ROOS v BLUES Full match coverage and stats
It means Carlton is in a fight to qualify for finals, slipping to two wins and three losses with four rounds remaining.
With the AFLW best and fairest winner Maddy Prespakis cooling her heels on the sidelines due to a one-match suspension, Jess Hosking spent more time on the ball and was industrious with 14 touches, while Nic Stevens (19) was outstanding at half-forward.
But North's weight of numbers in the middle proved to be too much, with Garner (32, nine clearances), Kearney (28, five clearances) and Riddell (23, nine tackles) powering the home side.
Both sides have not been at their best this year, and the game oscillated between brilliantly clean passages of play and sloppy, pressured turnovers.
North Melbourne came out firing, keen to atone for last week's disappointing loss to Collingwood, with Kate Gillespie-Jones and Garner booting goals after some quick movement out of the middle courtesy of Riddell and Emma King.
Darcy Vescio's hot form continued with a purple patch in the second term, kicking an opportunistic snap, converting a set shot and setting up Lauren Brazzale with a clever kick after spotting the winger out of the corner of her eye.
It gave the Blues a slender lead, but after numerous missed and rushed opportunities in front of goal by North, the diminutive Daisy Bateman surprised herself by converting a set-shot from 35m.
Mimi Hill – taken with pick No.10 in last year's NAB AFLW Draft – made things interesting in the last term with her first two AFLW goals, but North Melbourne broke the dam walls of Carlton's previously resolute defence, piling on five straight goals.
The finals picture
With Melbourne yet to play in round five, the Roos have leapt into sixth spot on the ladder, with the 2021 season seeing the top six qualifying for finals. There are four rounds remaining, and Carlton, one of the pre-season premiership fancies, is anchored in eighth spot. It's not all doom and gloom, with the Blues just one win adrift, but it makes things a lot harder from here, especially being 35 per cent below the Dees in seventh.
Duffin's welcome return
North Melbourne welcomed back All-Australian defender Jess Duffin following a break of 714 days due to the birth of her daughter Georgie in late June. She played in bursts but looked to have lost none of her touch as she slotted back into defence. Duffin took a goal-saving mark in the first term and was clever with deft touches around the ground. She'll be better for the run, but it was a more-than-handy inclusion for Darren Crocker.
Carlton's first-quarter blues
You'd be forgiven for skipping Carlton's opening terms this year if you were a Blues supporter. The team have been a notoriously slow starter, kicking a cumulative 1.2 from five opening stanzas. The Blues had 11 inside 50s in the first quarter against the Roos but were scoreless, struggling to find a clean mark within scoring range. Nic Stevens was in everything but Tayla Harris was well held and Darcy Vescio only came to life after the first break.
"We reviewed (ball movement) pretty strongly earlier in the week, and we just thought we didn't use the ball well or efficiently last week, and felt we played too rushed. Tonight, I just thought throughout the game, our ability to control the tempo of the game was really good. There were times when we could go quick, but there were also a lot of times when we got a mark or a free kick and the girls just controlled the tempo." - North Melbourne coach Darren Crocker
"We were monstered in the midfield. We've got a young developing midfield against one of the best and most experienced in the business and they had their way with us, particularly after half-time. We just weren't able to set up properly; we were a bit 'deer in the headlights' a couple of times and they did what they wanted, particularly through the front of the contest, which was annoying." - Carlton coach Daniel Harford
North Melbourne will be wary of Richmond's momentum after the Tigers' first win, but should have the firepower to get the job done on Friday night at the Swinburne Centre. Carlton will be hoping to bank four points, hosting the winless Cats at Ikon Park on Sunday.
NORTH MELBOURNE 2.1 2.2 4.5 9.5 (59)
CARLTON 0.0 3.0 3.0 6.1 (37)
North Melbourne: Abbatangelo 2, Bateman 2, Gillespie-Jones, Garner, Bannister, Campbell, M. King
Carlton: Vescio 2, Hill 2, Brazzale, Stevens
North Melbourne: Garner, Kearney, Riddell, Bruton, Randall, Abbatangelo
Carlton: Stevens, J. Hosking, Laloifi, Pound, Vescio, Hill
North Melbourne: Nil
Crowd: 820 at UTAS Stadium
Did you head to the footy over the weekend? Tell us your thoughts! Take the survey now