Hawthorn have burst out of the blocks to return to the AFL winner’s list over North Melbourne, earning a hard-fought 39-point win at the MCG.
The Hawks kicked the opening seven goals and spent the rest of Saturday afternoon’s match clinging onto their lead, running out 14.12 (96) to 8.9 (57) winners.
The win means Hawthorn will end the weekend a game clear on top of the AFL ladder, while North slump to a seventh-straight loss against finals opponents.
While the margin suggests a stroll for the premiers, the Kangaroos had looked a chance of reeling in an early 47-point deficit.
A flashpoint came halfway through the third term, when Robbie Nahas was caught in possession bearing down on goal.
A North conversion would have reduced the margin to just seven – instead, the Hawks led by 19 within a minute when Luke Breust finished a breakaway effort.
The Kangaroos wouldn’t find another goal as the Hawks blew the margin out with three final-term majors.
Isaac Smith’s game in midfield was immense, while Jordan Lewis, Bradley Hill and Sam Mitchell all produced strong showings around the ball.
Robbie Tarrant was a tower of strength for North, with Andrew Swallow also coming into the contest.
But the Kangaroos would rue their slow start.
Two different contests were played either side of quarter-time.
Before it, Hawthorn produced trademark Hawks footy, full of swift, sharp ball movement across the ground with plenty of run.
Cyril Rioli led the rout, kicking two as his side left North Melbourne in the dust.
When Todd Goldstein finally opened the Kangaroos’ account after 25 minutes, Breust popped up within 20 seconds of the restart with a dribbled goal that should contend for goal of the year.
There was no intensity from North Melbourne, and a thrashing of historic proportions looked on the cards.
After regrouping at quarter-time, the Kangaroos’ side that emerged from the huddle turned it into a contest.
But the closest they could come was 13 points, before Breust’s major won the momentum back for Hawthorn.
Without key targets Ben Brown and Jarrad Waite, North struggled to put their dominance on the scoreboard.