North Melbourne are off to their best start to an AFL season since 1979 after overcoming the Western Bulldogs by 16 points at Etihad Stadium on Friday night.
The Roos prevailed after a dour struggle to remain the only unbeaten team in the AFL, strengthening their grip on top spot with a 9.7 (61) to 6.9 (45) win in front of 47,622 fans – a venue record for a match between the two teams.
The pressure of the contest was worthy of a top-of-the-table clash but that increased intensity led to more skill errors and turnovers than could reasonably be expected from two premiership contenders.
With numbers around the ball that have rarely been seen this season, goals were hard to come by as the Roos eked out a 12-point lead at quarter-time then maintained that margin at half and three-quarter time.
Nearly 15 minutes elapsed without score in the final term before Jarrad Waite outmarked three defenders to slot his fourth goal of the night – the only major of the quarter – to seal the result.
Daniel Wells started like a house on fire and finished with 27 possessions, Scott Thompson had 27 disposals and took nine marks in a star turn down back and Todd Goldstein had 40 hitouts.
North did it one player down on the bench after quarter-time after Kayne Turner suffered a hamstring injury.
The Dogs’ defence was the stingiest in the league going into the match and they remained resolute in keeping the competition’s most potent attack to their lowest score of the season despite the absence of key trio Bob Murphy, Jason Johannisen and Matt Suckling.
But the Bulldogs couldn’t find a reliable avenue to goal as the Roos kept them at arm’s length throughout.
Lachie Hunter was prolific with 44 touches, while Matthew Boyd and Jack Macrae each had 33 possessions.