Kangaroos survive huge AFLW finals scare

Shayne Hope
North Melbourne have held on for a two-point win over Collingwood in a thrilling AFLW semi-final

Flag favourites North Melbourne have survived a huge scare to advance to the AFLW preliminary finals with a thrilling two-point win over Collingwood.

Magpies star Chloe Molloy had the chance to win Saturday afternoon's arm wrestle with a set shot 90 seconds before the final siren.

But the kick from 40m sliced off the outside of her boot and failed to score.

North Melbourne defended desperately in the dying stages and a match-saving mark from Jasmine Garner at centre-half back helped them to cling on to a 5.4 (34) to 5.2 (32) win at Ikon Park.

The Kangaroos had gone into the hastily revamped finals series - expanded to an eight-team knockout amid the coronavirus crisis - as warm premiership favourites on the back of a five-match winning streak.

It looked at times as if they would be left to rue a host of missed chances against Collingwood, who finished fourth in their conference.

But a dominant third quarter tilted the match in the Kangaroos' favour before a heart-stopping final term.

Emma Kearney (17 disposals), Ash Riddell (22) and Jasmine Garner (16) were outstanding for the Kangaroos, with Ellie Gavals and Kaitlyn Ashmore also playing important roles.

The win helped North Melbourne to overcome the painful memories of their near-finals miss last year in their debut season.

"It was something that we mentioned just before we ran out, that disappointment of last year," coach Scott Gowans said.

"It was real, and today that was almost the tick that we were looking for in the season to get through a final and get that monkey off our back under intense heat.

"It was a really big step forward for this group."

North Melbourne were on top early without making their dominance count on the scoreboard and Collingwood hit back through slick ball use in the middle of the ground.

Steph Chiocci led the way as Molloy fired and kicked one of the Magpies' three-unanswered goals as they took a 10-point lead into halftime.

But North Melbourne came out firing in the third quarter, winning the inside-50 count 8-3 for the term.

They reclaimed the lead on the three-quarter time siren when Gavalas' long-range set shot sailed over the pack on the goalline.

The final term was a battle right to the siren.

Bonnici (20 disposals), Bri Davey and Jaimee Lambert (22 each) were all outstanding for Collingwood and sharpshooter Jordan Membrey kicked two goals.

North Melbourne will meet the winner of Sunday's Carlton-Brisbane clash in a preliminary final.