North Adelaide enhanced its credentials with a gutsy three-point win against back-to-back premier Sturt at Peter Motley Oval on Sunday.
All eyes were on the Roosters, who were coming off a record 138-point win against West at Prospect, as they sought to earn further credibility against the best team in the Macca’s League for the past two seasons.
Despite not having a goal kicked by either side in a desperate final term, North was able to hang tough after booting 4.3 to Sturt’s 2.2 in the third term to set up the victory.
Sturt looked set to celebrate the 100-game milestones of Matt Crocker and Mark Evans when it edged ahead of the visitors by 12 points on the back of a goal to Crocker, who kicked truly on the run from 45m.
It was Crocker’s second goal for the second term after he earlier found space to convert a set shot from from 35m out directly in front.
Sydney Swans Academy recruit Jake Veale managed to open up a similar break for the hosts a quarter later when he kicked truly but this only sparked Josh Carr’s charges into action midway during the third term.
Former Magpies forward Robbie Young produced the best piece of play for the afternoon when he gathered the ball on the wing, took a bounce and broke free of Sturt ruckman Jack Osborn to tie up the scores with a goal from 40m.
Amazingly, it was to be the final goal of the match despite being kicked 21 minutes into the third quarter.
Through sheer grit and determination, North was able to hold on for a confidence-boosting win as it seeks to make significant strides in 2018.
Sandover Medallist Aidan Tropiano was North’s only player to register more than 20 disposals, indicating the even nature of the triumph, with defenders Callum Wilkie and Cameron Craig also playing vital roles while collecting 19 touches each.
Roosters captain Max Thring and former Eagles Jarred Allmond and Tom Schwarz were also important through the midfield and defence while Mitch Harvey and Keenan Ramsey made the most of their chances in attack to kick two each.
Osborn had a chance to steal the win for Sturt 22 minutes into the final term when he earned a free kick for catching Matt Appleton holding the ball.
But the former Crow’s tough set shot from 50m swung too far to the left and floated through for a behind with less than two minutes left on the clock.
Crocker was one of his team’s best in his milestone match, collecting 20 disposals to go with his two goals while Sturt’s midfield warriors Zane Kirkwood and James Battersby had 44 disposals between them.
NORTH 3.0 4.1 8.4 8.6 (54)
STURT 2.3 5.6 7.8 7.9 (51)
LEADING DISPOSALS – North: Tropiano 23, Allmond, Wilkie, Thring 19, Olekalns, C. Craig 18, Schwarz 17.
Sturt: Kirkwood 23, Battersby 21, Crocker 20, Thiele, Colquhoun Read 17.
GOALS – North: Harvey, Ramsey 2, Young, Tropiano, Hender, Quinn.
Sturt: Crocker 2, Veale, Thiele, Osborn, Slimming, McAdam.