Brisbane outlast North, into AFL top-four

The Brisbane Lions have claimed a hard-fought 23-point victory over North Melbourne in Hobart.
The Brisbane Lions have claimed a hard-fought 23-point victory over North Melbourne in Hobart.

It took a stern half-time address from milestone man Chris Fagan to inspire Brisbane to grind their way past North Melbourne and maintain their spot in the AFL's top-four with a 23-point win in Hobart.

Lincoln McCarthy provided a spark in attack as Jarryd Lyons, Hugh McCluggage, Zac Bailey and Lachie Neale did much of the grunt work around the packs in the Lions' 9.14 (68) to 6.9 (45) victory on Saturday night.

McCarthy stepped up in big moments, kicking the second of his two goals at the start of the final term to give Brisbane valuable breathing space in a low-scoring affair.

It came after they hit the front through Eric Hipwood's huge contested mark and kick for goal during time-on of the third quarter.

The Lions held North to just two goals in the second half as they dominated contested possession, clearances and forward entries after the main break.

Speaking to Fox Footy post-match, Neale described Fagan's message as a "little bit of a bake" and admitted the Lions were slow to find their rhythm on the back of last week's bye.

"I don't know if it was a bake," Fagan said in his post-match press conference.

"We had a strong talk about where we were at and the fact that we hadn't done as well at clearances as we needed to, particularly at centre-bounce.

"We might have been in front but we weren't really getting any metreage from those clearances, so we needed to go to work on that.

"Sometimes the players need a bit of a wake-up.

"We just had a couple of weeks off and that can be a little bit challenging at times.

"But it was a good game tonight just to prepare us for Thursday night against Geelong and that's going to be a tough test."

Small forward Charlie Cameron had just five kicks but finished with 2.3 in a dangerous cameo for the Lions, whose win gave Fagan an even 50-50 record after 100 games at the helm.

The 59-year-old reached the milestone in his first showdown with Kangaroos counterpart David Noble, his former right-hand man.

North's Nick Larkey was an aerial threat in attack before halftime and kicked two goals in a run of four straight to help give the Kangaroos the upper hand early in the second term.

But the tall forwards lost their point of difference after the main break as heavy rain fell and turned a scrappy contest into an out-and-out slugfest.

Larkey finished with three majors and Cam Zurhaar two as Ben Cunnington and Jy Simpkin worked hard for a Kangaroos midfield unit that was overpowered in the end.

Kangaroos vice-captain Luke McDonald returned from a long lay-off with a pectoral injury and got through his first full game of the season, finishing with 17 disposals on a wing.

Australian Associated Press