FLAG favourites North Melbourne have survived a huge scare to advance to the AFLW preliminary finals with a thrilling two-point win over Collingwood.
Magpies star Chloe Molloy had the chance to win Saturday afternoon’s arm wrestle with a set shot 90 seconds before the final siren.
But the kick from 40m sliced off the outside of her boot and failed to score.
The Kangaroos defended desperately in the dying stages to cling on to a 5.4 (34) to 5.2 (32) win at Ikon Park.
Scott Gowans’ side went into the hastily revamped finals series – expanded to an eight-team knockout amid the coronavirus crisis – as warm premiership favourites on the back of a five-match winning streak.
It looked at times as if they would be left to rue a host of missed chances against Collingwood, who finished fourth in their conference.
But a dominant third quarter tilted the match in the Kangaroos’ favour before a heart-stopping final term.
Emma Kearney (17 disposals), Ash Riddell (22) and Jasmine Garner (16) were outstanding for the Kangaroos, with Ellie Gavals and Kaitlyn Ashmore also playing important roles.
North Melbourne controlled the tempo early but couldn’t make the most of their dominance, and led by just one point at the first change.
They lost Jess Trend for a brief period moments before quarter-time as she was forced to undergo medical assessment after a heavy tackle from Britt Bonnici.
But the tough utility returned after the break and played out the rest of the game.
Ashmore burst into life as she kicked the opening goal of the second term, set up a shot with a neat pass to the leading Brittany Gibson and created another chance for herself with a brilliant tackle close to goal.
Again, however, the Kangaroos let the majority of chances go begging.
Collingwood pounced, snatching the lead for the first time with goals to Mikala Cann and Molloy during the second term.
Another to Sarah Darcy, who had needed attention minutes earlier on a left knee injury, made it three in a row as the Pies took a 10-point lead into halftime.
But North Melbourne came out firing in the third quarter, winning the inside-50 count 8-3 for the term.
They reclaimed the lead on the three-quarter time siren when Gavalas’ long-range set shot sailed over the pack on the goal line.
The final term was a battle right to the siren.
Bonnici (20 disposals), Bri Davey and Jaimee Lambert (22 each) were all outstanding for Collingwood and sharpshooter Jordan Membrey kicked two goals.
© AAP 2020
NORTH MELBOURNE 1.1 2.3 4.4 5.4 (34)
COLLINGWOOD 1.0 4.1 4.1 5.2 (32)
Goals: North Melbourne: D Bateman E Gavalas K Ashmore S Abbatangelo S Wright. Collingwood: J Membrey 2 C Molloy M Cann S D’Arcy.
Umpires: Andrew Mitchell, Michael Pell, Luke Porter.
Venue: Ikon Park.