MELBOURNE has showcased its AFL premiership credentials in a 22-point win over Brisbane at Giants Stadium, where Kosi Pickett and Tom McDonald starred in a stirring third-quarter fightback.
The Lions lit up the first half of Friday night’s contest, opening up a 20-point halftime lead as they eyed an eighth straight victory.
But prime movers Christian Petracca, Max Gawn and Clayton Oliver rallied for the Demons, who also lifted their pressure and speed of ball movement in what proved the quintessential game of two halves.
It resulted in two third-term goals for each of Pickett and McDonald, allowing the ladder leaders to claim a one-point lead at three-quarter time.
Pickett and McDonald then both slotted a goal in the final quarter, helping ensure their side prevailed 14.13 (97) to 11.9 (75) in front of an unbefittingly small crowd.
The much-anticipated match was held in western Sydney because of Victoria’s COVID-19 outbreak, while the AFL confirmed on Friday night that the Demons- Collingwood Queen’s Birthday clash will be shifted to the SCG.
Lions captain Dayne Zorko was reported for striking McDonald in the premiership quarter, while Tom Sparrow’s high bump on Brisbane veteran Daniel Rich is likely to be scrutinised by the match review officer.
Melbourne is now 11-1 and on track for their first minor premiership since 1964; the same year of their most recent flag.
The Demons have accounted for reigning premiers Richmond, last year’s grand finalists Geelong plus fellow top-four sides Brisbane and Western Bulldogs.
Petracca and Oliver, who combined for 52 disposals and 17 clearances, headlined the list of best-on-ground contenders.
“We knew it was going to be a fight all night,” Petracca told the Seven Network.
“We were pretty boring in the first half. We weren’t running, linking up with each other, playing with excitement or having fun like we usually do.
“Halftime gives you the ability to reset.”
Fleet-footed youngster Zac Bailey booted a game-high four goals for the Lions, running rings around the league’s most miserly defence.
But star backmen Steven May and Jake Lever, having been so central to Melbourne’s brilliant start to 2021, settled superbly after being repeatedly put under siege in a lopsided first half.
Brisbane dominated inside-50s (32-18), clearances (22-14) and contested possessions (72-59) in the opening half, only for the Demons to seize momentum and finish ahead in all three of the key metrics.
Key forward Eric Hipwood started strongly for the Lions, clutching two contested marks in the first term, but twice hit the post to finish with 1.4 on an inaccurate night.
(C) AAP 2021
MELBOURNE 2.3 5.4 10.9 14.13 (97)
BRISBANE LIONS 4.4 8.6 10.8 11.9 (75)
Goals: Melbourne: K Pickett 3 T McDonald 3 B Fritsch 2 C Petracca 2 A Neal-Bullen L Jackson M Gawn T Sparrow. Brisbane Lions: Z Bailey 4 C Cameron 2 D Zorko E Hipwood J Daniher K Coleman L McCarthy.
Umpires: Chris Donlon, Brett Rosebury, John Howorth.
Venue: Giants Stadium.