North Melbourne have beaten Port Adelaide by seven points in their AFL round-three match.
North Melbourne’s star players rose to the challenge in Sunday’s seven-point AFL win over Port Adelaide at Etihad Stadium.
But it was the performances of some of North’s emerging players which caught the eye of coach Brad Scott.
Tough midfielder Ben Cunnington had a day out with 30 possessions and nine clearances as the Kangaroos overcame a 10-point deficit at three-quarter time to win 14.13 (97) to 13.12 (90).
Cunnington, 22, and Levi Greenwood, who gathered a game-high 34 disposals in his 54th match, played key roles for the Kangaroos who notched their second win of the season.
The previously unbeaten Port are now 2-1 from three rounds, after their much-feared running game fell victim to North’s greater work-rate.
North kicked 5.2 to Port’s 2.3 in the final term.
Three of North’s last-quarter goals came from experienced duo Nick Dal Santo, a triple All-Australian at his former club St Kilda, and Brent Harvey, a five-time club champion.
Harvey’s two last-quarter goals gave him a match tally of three alongside fellow small forward Lindsay Thomas, while for Port big forward Jay Schulz booted three majors.
Dal Santo had 30 disposals while Harvey looked ever-dangerous with 23 touches in his 365th match.
Port coach Ken Hinkley said the Kangaroos were more efficient in the last quarter.
“Some of their good players stood up and kicked crucial goals when they needed them,” he said.
“Boomer (Harvey) and Dal Santo kicked really good goals. A bit of class got them through at the end.”
Scott also praised 35-year-old Harvey, saying top players are always up for the moment in close games.
However with key forward Drew Petrie goal-less and last year’s equal-club champion Daniel Wells quiet, North looked to Greenwood, Cunnington, 15th-gamer Brad McKenzie and speedy half-back Shaun Atley, 21, to provide some spark.
“It’s not a bad thing to rely on your best players,” Scott said.
“But you want some players to step up when they’re down and our guys did that today.
“That gives you confidence when you do have your captain Andrew Swallow and vice-captain Jack Ziebell out, that you’ve got players to step into the breach.
“We’re starting to build a list with enough depth that when players are called upon they’ll come in and do the job. “
Scott said it was close to the best kind of win, because it was all heart.
“While we weren’t perfect, I thought our effort was,” he added.
Scott is hopeful Ziebell (shoulder) will be fit for next Sunday’s clash with Sydney at the SCG.
Injury-hit Port host Brisbane on Saturday.
Club champion Chad Wingard is in doubt with an ankle injury, while fellow small forward Angus Monfries is set to miss a month after being subbed out with a hamstring injury in the third quarter.