GOLD Coast has almost caused one of the upsets of the season, pushing Melbourne until the final siren at Casey Fields on Saturday night.
The Demons got back on the winners list by beating the spirited Suns 5.8 (38) to 4.2 (26) as the away side worked to make the most of the significant wind advantage it had in the final quarter.
There were enticing one-on-one match-ups across the field, but none more so than Charlie Rowbottom taking on Eden Zanker at the contest.
The tall, tough duo brought the physicality, and Zanker arguably won out as she positioned herself well outside stoppages to become a handball outlet for Melbourne, ending the game with 18 disposals and eight tackles.
Pressure was rife as the two sides combined for 177 tackles, the most aggregate tackles in competition history, with Lily Mithen leading the way with 12.
The Suns’ defence held up particularly well, given the absence of Jade Pregelj, as they withstood an onslaught of Melbourne inside 50s. Lauren Ahrens had her hands full with Tayla Harris, but battled strongly for three quarters until a leg injury kept her out of the final term.
In the final quarter, Melbourne started to find the kick into the corridor it has become known for this year, setting up an early goal to Harris, but Gold Coast’s awareness and ability to close down space caused the Demons to fumble at ground level.
But it was the impressive work of Melbourne’s defensive unit that won out, repelling repeated entries from the Suns as they threatened to snatch the win.
Libby Birch stood strong in the air, taking five marks, and Shelley Heath used her speed and aggression at ground level to make life tough for Kate Surman.
Pressure is everything
Melbourne has been found out in recent weeks, with its skilful game style being broken down by opposition pressure. The Suns did their homework and applied that pressure right across the field, but the Demons came prepared and did the same. Gold Coast ended the game with 91 tackles, marginally beating the Demons in the metric, who registered 86 of their own.
Gold Coast has won its last two games thanks to a final-quarter surge that it threatened again on Saturday night. With the help of the wind, the Suns were strong at the contest and looked for runners on the outside to get the ball into a spacious forward 50. This was highlighted by Jamie Stanton’s running goal, set up beautifully by Ellie Hampson on the wing.
It took both sides some time to navigate the difficult wind they faced at Casey. Early shots were seen curling away from the big sticks and sailing through for behinds as players got used to how it would affect the ball in the air.
Melbourne is set to remain at home to face GWS on Sunday, while the Suns will head home to face Geelong at Fankhauser Reserve.
MELBOURNE 0.3 2.4 4.7 5.8 (38)
GOLD COAST 0.0 1.0 2.0 4.2 (26)
Melbourne: Harris 2, D.Pearce, McNamara, Fitzsimon
Gold Coast: Drennan, Hampson, Stanton, Howarth
Melbourne: Zanker, Heath, Mithen, Birch
Gold Coast: Drennan, Stanton, Howarth, Rowbottom
Gold Coast: Ahrens (leg)
Gold Coast: Jacqueline Dupuy replaced by Brittany Perry
Crowd: 1,124 at Casey Fields