MELBOURNE has staked a claim for a top-two spot, defeating an ill-disciplined North Melbourne by 10 points in gusty conditions at Casey Fields.
The Roos gave away at least three 50m penalties, resulting in two of the Demons' three goals to the half-time break, which had a big say in the 4.3 (27) to 2.5 (17) result.
DEMONS v KANGAROOS Full match coverage and stats
After weeks of struggling to convert their many inside 50s, North Melbourne was starved of opportunity in the first half due to Melbourne's strong defence, led by Libby Birch, Sinead Goldrick and Tahlia Gillard.
It was a ho-hum third term, with the Dees holding the Roos scoreless, but North Melbourne pressed late in the final quarter. Kaitlyn Ashmore's stunning snap from the boundary inspired some rare open run in a congested game, but it was too little, too late.
Ash Riddell had 18 disposals by half-time, but her influence waned as the match progressed, while Karen Paxman (28) brought her own ball to her wing role and Lily Mithen (27, six tackles) was busy throughout.
Star Melbourne forward Tayla Harris increased her goalkicking streak to eight matches, booting two and taking a Toyota Mark of the Year contender against Jasmine Ferguson.
Small defender Shelley Heath was thrown forward to play a defensive role on Roos skipper Emma Kearney, holding the rebound defender to just 11 disposals.
Roos ruck Emma King received treatment on her ankle in the first quarter and played out the game, but will need scans early in the week, while Eden Zanker spent some time off the field with what was described as an "ankle stinger".
Heath, 21 has been thriving of late with a series of lockdown roles, including against the much taller Cora Staunton several weeks ago. She did what no other player has done, holding Kearney to a career-low 11 touches, well down on her season average of 19. Post-match, Mick Stinear described her as a "very task-orientated" player.
The ladder now
Melbourne is currently locked into second spot on the ladder, having established a game's break on Fremantle in third spot. North Melbourne (fourth) is still vulnerable to dropping outside the top six, but with a round 10 match against West Coast, is unlikely to miss finals.
A game of inches
The howling Casey wind reduced two clean-kicking sides to a territory game, with mistakes and congestion aplenty. Both teams struggled to make meaningful headway down the ground or switch play to the open side, with Melbourne's experience in the conditions one of the differences in the end.
"We wanted to start well, that was really important for us, and other than that it was a good four-quarter effort. There were periods were North had us covered for clearances and contested possessions in that first half, but the girls' ability to apply themselves in defence (kept them in it), and the second half we were much better around the ball." – Melbourne coach Mick Stinear
"I thought it was a really tough, tight contest. Obviously the windy conditions turned it into a bit of a game of territory. We felt for three quarters, we just couldn't get the ball forward enough to give ourselves a chance to try to put them under any sort of pressure. To three-quarter time, we only had 11 inside 50s." – North Melbourne coach Darren Crocker
The Demons have another tough challenge, taking on Fremantle at Fremantle Oval, while the going doesn't get easier for North Melbourne, who faces Brisbane in Maroochydore.
MELBOURNE 2.0 3.1 4.3 4.3 (27)
NORTH MELBOURNE 0.2 1.4 1.4 2.5 (17)
Melbourne: Harris 2, Hore, Paxman
North Melbourne: Garner, Ashmore
Melbourne: Paxman, Mithen, Heath, Harris, L. Pearce
North Melbourne: Riddell, Garner, Bruton, M.King
Melbourne: Zanker (ankle)
North Melbourne: E.King (ankle)
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