ONCE in a while during a game of football, everything falls into place.
Melbourne tapped a rich vein of form in the second quarter, booting six goals to seal an upset nine-point win over heavyweight North Melbourne.
DEMONS v KANGAROOS Full match coverage and stats
But it wasn't without some nerves, with the Roos racing back in the second half to push the result all the way to the line in the Dees' 9.6 (60) to 8.3 (51) win at Casey Fields.
The battle of two undefeated sides – who are perennially in the upper echelons of the ladder – did not disappoint.
The 2020 All-Australian captain Karen Paxman stood alongside the All-Australian vice-captain Emma Kearney at the first bounce, and the two were never far away from each other as the game evolved.
The Dees improved the cleanliness of their disposal in the second term, cutting through North Melbourne with aggressive rebound and quick, pin-point passes.
What resulted was a scintillating six-goal quarter, ripping the Kangaroos' usually impressive backline to shreds, with Tegan Cunningham and Jackie Parry kicking two apiece in the term.
Melbourne had plenty of overlap run from Sinead Goldrick and Daisy Pearce at half-back, and were beating North on the outside, recording 24 more handballs and seven more marks inside 50 at half-time.
Stung by one of their worst quarters perhaps since 2019, the Roos came out firing after the major break, dominating the contest and giving their forwards a chance.
Inspired by powerful young forward Daria Bannister, North Melbourne kicked four goals in the premiership quarter, while holding Melbourne to one and cutting the margin to seven at the final break.
Melbourne slowed the game considerably in the fourth term, the free-flowing footy of earlier forgotten.
After a period of scrappy play, classy draftee Bella Eddey crumbed to perfection to cut the margin to just two points halfway through the term, but the Dees held firm.
Cream rises to the top
There were mouth-watering match-ups aplenty around the ground, but the most star-studded of the lot was between the 2020 All-Australian captain Karen Paxman and the All-Australian vice-captain Emma Kearney. Paxman was particularly busy early, slotting a goal and finishing with 25 disposals, while Kearney had 16 and eight tackles. In all, it was one of the most talented and exciting games of AFLW we've seen in four-and-a-bit seasons, slotting in with the fifth-highest score aggregate of all time.
North Melbourne's kryptonite
The Kangaroos came into the match with an eight-game winning streak under their belt, dating back to round two last year. The team that beat them in round one, 2020? Melbourne at Casey Fields. While the Roos managed to address the structural issues that plagued them in the opening half, Melbourne showed just how powerful it can be when its running game kicks into gear.
Blink and you'll miss it
Daria Bannister has been on an AFLW list since 2018, but Saturday night marked the first time she had been fit to play three consecutive games. The young Tasmanian has endured a horror run with injury, including a torn ACL and a broken collarbone, but in the space of a minute she showed that she belonged at AFLW level. Bustling her way through packs, she threw her powerful frame at the ball and booted two quick goals in the Roos' third-quarter fightback.
"It was really pleasing at half-time, the position we were in. The girls had a lot of energy, their ability to win the ball and then their method in the forward half to create scoring opportunities, we were really pleased with that. Their effort to fight out the game was really good, I think it'll be a key game in terms of our season this year." – Melbourne coach Mick Stinear
"It was an impressive third quarter, the second half was better. Even though the second quarter was really disappointing, we as coaches felt the whole first half we didn't get the game on our terms, even in the first quarter. We were efficient going inside 50, but we felt the scoreboard probably flattered us in that first quarter." – North Melbourne coach Darren Crocker
MELBOURNE 1.3 7.4 8.4 9.6 (60)
NORTH MELBOURNE 2.1 3.1 7.3 8.3 (51)
Melbourne: Parry 3, Cunningham 2, Scott 2, Hore, Paxman
North Melbourne: Garner 2, Bannister 2, Campbell, Kearney, Abbatangelo, Eddey
Melbourne: Hanks, Goldrick, Parry, Paxman, Mithen, Hore
North Melbourne: Garner, Kearney, Riddell, Bannister, Ashmore
North Melbourne: Nil
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