(Ed: note: Our newest contributor, Cale Hellyer, will be sending match reports from Victoria for the rest of the season.)
Both sides have battled inconsistency this season, and before the game there was a general feeling that the losing team would struggle the make the Finals. Both sides came into the game with different issues, with North Melbourne taken apart by the competition's lowest ranked side in the previous round. Geelong, on the other hand, had to contend with an unprecedented 20 day break, as a result of a bye in Round 13 and the cancellation of their match with Adelaide after the tragic death of Phil Walsh.
The early stages of the game reflected its importance, as the typically open nature of Etihad Stadium games was filled with high pressure and strong tackling. Shaun Atley put the first goal on the board for the Roos at the eight minute mark. Both teams then traded blows and the Cats led by a point at quarter time.
North Melbourne got the game on their terms in the second quarter, constantly rebounding from defense and taking advantage of the space left by Geelong's unsuccessful forward press. Only a soft Steve Johnson free kick 15 meters from goal could break a run of five consecutive North goals. By now Todd Goldstein was dominating in the ruck and around the ground and Nick Dal Santo was being given too much time and space. By half time Geelong were 33 points down and in serious trouble.
In the second half, the Cats hardly produced a meow after the first minute. Jordan Murdoch kicked truly to reduce the margin to 27 points, but in truth it never felt like the Cats could bridge the gap. North continued to move the ball with slickness and efficiency, adding four goals to three in the third to hold a comfortable 38 point lead at the final change.
All that was left for the Kangaroos to do was continue playing the way they had been and complete a good four quarter effort which might set the tone for an attack on the Finals. They did just that, as surprise substitute and 398-gamer Brent Harvey began rack up the stats once he came on the ground, much to the delight of the North faithful. In the end, it was a comfortable 41 point margin and something for North to build upon. Producing consistent playing performances will now be the key.
As for Geelong, the much anticipated return of Jimmy Bartel was worth the wait, as he racked up 41 possessions, including 30 handballs. However the positives ended there, with the Cats looking sluggish after quarter time, as many had expected coming off their long break. What was the Cats’ seventh loss of the season leaves them comfortably outside the Top Eight. To make matters worse, skipper Joel Selwood was reported after his 'chicken wing' tackle on Sam Wright (and suspended for one match by the Match Review Panel).
In Round 16 North Melbourne will meet Essendon in a very winnable Friday night game and Geelong will take on the fast-running and highly-improved young Western Bulldogs which may well decide whether they make Finals or not in 2015.
Scoreboard North Melbourne: 3.2 10.5 14.7 18.12 (120) Geelong: 3.3 4.8 7.11 11.13 (79) Best North Melbourne: Goldstein, Higgins, Swallow, Dal Santo, Firrito Geelong: Bartel, Murdoch, Selwood, Johnson, Mackie
Article last changed on Tuesday, July 21, 2015 - 12:11 PM EDT