North Melbourne pip Lions in AFL thriller

Vince Rugari
North Melbourne have held on to beat Brisbane in a thrilling AFL clash at the Gabba

Cameron Rayner will draw a harsh lesson from the butchered shot on goal that handed North Melbourne a thrilling three-point AFL victory, according to Brisbane coach Chris Fagan.

Rookie sensation Rayner on Saturday had the chance to win the match with about 30 seconds to go with a free kick on a slight angle from 25m out.

It would have capped off a remarkable comeback from the Lions, who were 24 points down early in the last quarter but kicked three unanswered goals and looked ready to deliver a potentially fatal blow to North's finals hopes.

Usually so calm and composed under pressure, the 18-year-old crumbled.

Instead of taking his allotted time, Rayner rushed an around-the-corner effort that sprayed wide, letting the Kangaroos off the hook.

He looked close to tears after the final siren and had to be consoled by Fagan, who sensed the feeling of expectation from the boisterous 18,395-strong crowd at the Gabba got to him.

"He's upset about it, which is natural enough," Fagan said.

"It'll stand (him) in good stead down the track.

"I'm sure Cam Rayner and his career at this footy club will make up for that one over and over again.

"We'll just wrap our arms around him and celebrate the fact that he's at our club and know that he's going to be a great player going forward."

It was a huge reprieve for the Kangaroos, who largely had the better of the game, even though the Lions had them beaten in all the major statistics except for contested possessions (147-131).

The win ensures they remain right in the hunt for September action.

The 16.11 (107) to 16.8 (104) result is North's sixth consecutive triumph over Brisbane, a run of dominance that stretches four years.

But coach Brad Scott said the gap between them was clearly closing.

"There's no doubt there's an element of relief because they had their opportunities to win," Scott said.

"I saw Chris Fagan after the game and he was very gracious in defeat as he always is. But soon, I expect he'll be humble in victory.

"They've got a lot of players who have shown capability but they're now just good players and Brisbane are now just a good team."

The Kangaroos sit in ninth position with only percentage keeping them out of the finals positions, although they still cannot afford a misstep in their last three matches.

North face Western Bulldogs (home), Adelaide (away) and St Kilda (away) to complete the minor round - teams that are all out of finals contention.