Collingwood gave their AFL finals hopes a significant boost with a hard-fought 30-point victory over North Melbourne.
- Collingwood has beaten North Melbourne to extend the gap on the teams chasing them for a spot in the top eight
- Collingwood’s Trey Ruscoe was the only multiple goalkicker for the night with two
- North Melbourne kicked the opening two goals and led at half-time but the Magpies dominated the second half
Neither of the injury-hit sides produced anything like their best football in an untidy contest at the Gabba.
But the Magpies’ superior work around the contest in the second half saw them pull away to secure a vital 10.5 (65) to 5.5 (35) win on Monday night.
It moved them into seventh spot on the ladder, six points clear of Carlton, GWS and Melbourne — the nearest sides outside the top eight — who all have a game in hand.
They meet the Blues in a huge clash at the Gabba on Sunday.
North Melbourne’s Todd Goldstein continued his good form with a strong ruck display against Brodie Grundy and skilful veteran Shaun Higgins (26 disposals) was busy on the wing.
But Collingwood had more winners around the ground and held firm in defence, where Darcy Moore and Brayden Maynard were outstanding in both repelling Kangaroos raids and providing rebound for their side.
Tough midfielder Levi Greenwood played his first match in almost 12 months after a serious knee injury and finished with 15 disposals, as well as a crunching tackle that left Jack Mahony with a sore shoulder.
Key forward Mason Cox marked his return from several weeks out of the team with one goal and first-year Magpies forward Trey Ruscoe was the only multiple goal kicker on the ground with two.
North Melbourne kicked the opening two goals from Collingwood turnovers and neither side was able to break clear in a largely dour and scrappy first half.
But Scott Pendlebury, Taylor Adams and Jack Crisp helped lift the Magpies during the third quarter.
A free-kick and 50m penalty to Pendlebury for being held by Luke McDonald after disposing of the ball led to the captain’s first goal of the season and gave Collingwood a 16-point buffer at the last change.
Steele Sidebottom pounced to kick the first goal of the final term within seconds of the restart and effectively put an end to the Kangaroos’ challenge.
It may end up being Sidebottom’s last significant on-field contribution in 2020, with the Magpies’ vice-captain set to return to Melbourne for family reasons.
His partner is due to give birth to their first child in September and Sidebottom is no certainty to be back in action before the end of the season.