Big AFL loss to Pies leaves North on brink

Roger Vaughan

North Melbourne's AFL season is on the brink after they crumbled defensively for the third time in four games.

Saturday's 66-point loss to Collingwood at the MCG left the Kangaroos a game outside the top eight with five rounds left.

Collingwood's 20.10 was also the highest score kicked against North this season.

It is also the third 100 point-plus score kicked against the Kangaroos in the past month.

"Right across the ground, we just didn't defend anywhere near to the standard we've come to expect," North coach Brad Scott said.

"We just haven't been the defensive team we've wanted to be over the last couple of weeks."

They now face a must-win game in Hobart next Sunday against West Coast.

North have been outstanding this season, after pundits widely tipped them to finish at or near bottom.

But they were inaccurate early and badly lost the tackle count 82-46.

"They will be flat and they should be flat," Scott said of his players.

"They copped their right whack today - they copped it from Collingwood and they copped it from the coaching group.

"Also the coaching group will go back and do a thorough analysis of our own performance."

Scott bemoaned his team's tackling, saying generally the technique was horrendous.

He said midfielder Ben Cunnington was the one shining exception as North did not handle Collingwood's pressure.

"Our ability to return serve in the pressure battle was just not up to the level we've come to expect across the course of the year," he said.

"That was really disappointing."

On top of all that, North had a succession of players forced off the ground for extended periods under the blood rule.

Scott Thompson's nose was splattered across his face, while Jack Ziebell was the latest player to be cut on the LED signage along the boundary.

Jed Anderson and Todd Goldstein also had to be patched up, while Alex Morgan was forced out of the game because of a calf injury.

"The interchange bench looked like an emergency ward and unfortunately all the blood rules were significant - they required stitching," Scott said.

"For us, right at the moment, where we are, it just exacerbates what was already a poor day and Collingwood to their credit took full advantage of their dominance in the pressure battle."

Another injury problem is Ben Jacobs, who has played only once since round 11 because of concussion symptoms.

Scott said Jacobs was close to being available last week, but again did not pull up from training.