A STUNNING final quarter goal to Daisy Pearce has booked Melbourne's place in consecutive Grand Finals, breaking the hearts of North Melbourne in the process.
Melbourne got the job done, 5.3 (33) to North Melbourne's 2.4 (16) at a windy Ikon Park on Saturday afternoon to secure a battle between the first and second-placed sides of the season.
DEES v ROOS Full match coverage and stats
It wasn't easy for the Demons, with the eventual 17-point victory the result - the largest margin between the two sides - coming after a physical, contested match.
It was a spark of brilliance from captain Pearce late in the game that secured the victory, finding her first piece of empty grass in attack all day to swing around and snap a huge goal from 35m as the crowd roared.
Early on Karen Paxman was the only Demon able to find the ball in space, as North Melbourne brought immense pressure around the ball, refusing to let Melbourne win the control by hand that it has become known for this season.
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To half time, the Roos had registered 32 tackles and 16 one percenters, indicating just how tight and tough they made life for the Demons right across the field.
That pressure made the usually composed Demons panic at times, particularly coming out of defence, opening the door for North Melbourne in attack. Melbourne, however, was repeatedly saved by wayward shots, or the ball falling agonisingly short of the Roos' goal line.
In defence, the Kangaroos played with a spare. Their deepest defender, typically Jasmine Ferguson, would sit between Melbourne's deepest forward and the goal line, while another Roo, often Sarah Wright, would then take space in front. This closed off any leading lanes or space the Demons tried to generate inside 50, severely limiting Melbourne's ability to score.
The Demons were often caught wanting to move the ball quickly, but with the Roos' well-disciplined backline, found themselves kicking to an outnumber or, worse, a sole Kangaroo ready to take an uncontested mark and repel.
Kearney starred for the Roos behind the ball, left to intercept and rebound at will, finishing the game with 10 intercepts from 17 disposals, while star midfielder's Jasmine Garner's 24 disposals and nine tackles couldn't get her side over the line.
For Melbourne, Paxman and Tyla Hanks worked tirelessly winning a combined 39 disposals, 10 clearances and laying 19 tackles for the day, surging their side across the line.
No reward for effort
North Melbourne dominated the third quarter, registering 18 inside 50s to Melbourne's two, but was able to score just two behinds. The Roos set up expertly to trap the ball in their attacking half and intercepted at will, but were let down by an inability to take marks close enough to goal to generate genuine scoring attempts. For the likes of Libby Birch, Maeve Chaplin, and Sarah Lampard there was little reprieve as they worked tirelessly to rebound only for it to come straight back in.
The Tayla factor
Tayla Harris has been a woman reborn this season, playing largely through the ruck to get heavily involved in games up the field. A left shoulder injury in the opening quarter, however, limited her ability to ruck and therefore saw her sit in attack for the remainder of the game. This wreaked havoc with Melbourne's structures, as Eden Zanker was called up to support Lauren Pearce against the Roo duo of Kim Rennie and Emma King and lowered the Demons' flexibility in attack.
Melbourne will now prepare for the biggest game of the season, a Grand Final against a rampaging Brisbane at the latter's brand new home deck in Springfield. For North Melbourne, it's all over after an impressive season seven.
MELBOURNE 2.0 3.1 3.1 5.3 (33)
NORTH MELBOURNE 1.0 2.2 2.4 2.4 (16)
Melbourne: Fitzsimon, Mithen, Sherriff, Hore, D.Pearce
North Melbourne: Randall, E.King
Melbourne: Paxman, Mithen, Hanks, Heath
North Melbourne: Kearney, Garner, Riddell, Wright
Melbourne: Harris (left shoulder)
North Melbourne: Nil
Crowd: 5,592 at Ikon Park