Carlton have responded to a tough week of scrutiny on coach Mick Malthouse with a stunning 23-point upset of North Melbourne.
While the 16.13 (109) to 13.8 (86) win at Etihad Stadium on Friday night could come at the cost of young guns Troy Menzel and Andrejs Everitt to knee injuries, this was Carlton’s best AFL win of the season and one to savour.
Lachie Henderson’s six goals, including four in the last quarter, and a bag of four to the returning Jarrad Waite ensured Carlton’s lead earned in the first term would never be headed.
Taken to task by club officials during the week for his perennially grumpy outlook, Malthouse’s men responded on the field with a bright first-half showing.
The Blues took the lead with four straight goals in a frenetic first term, with veteran Chris Judd and the lively Chris Yarran getting the Blues on top.
It was direct, incisive football – and it was cutting North Melbourne to pieces.
A last-minute decision to throw in Waite paid dividends for Malthouse, with Carlton’s tall forwards causing headaches for the `Roos.
Henderson, Levi Casboult, Waite and reborn ruck Cameron Wood were dominating the air and contributing on the scoreboard.
But the Blues were unable to kick away as North Melbourne stubbornly remained in the contest.
Runners Levi Greenwood, Ben Cunnington and Brent Harvey stepped up their game to keep Carlton’s half-time lead to 15 points.
North Melbourne’s third term had them back in the hunt, kicking 4.0 to 1.6 in the third term as Carlton’s wayward forwards threatened to kick themselves into trouble.
But the Blues responded to settle the contest with six straight final-term goals.
While Henderson had four of those six, there was none better than Waite’s, who first took a crucial defensive mark before streaming forward to finish a flowing move.
The loss leaves North Melbourne’s top-four ambitions in serious doubt with a crunch meeting against Geelong next round.
Malthouse said he most happy with playing out four quarters.
“What we’re trying to do is just take it a quarter at a time,” he said.
While he was happy to talk up Cameron Wood’s contribution, he was not keen to talk about his pair of knee injuries.
“Anyone who hurts a knee, I don’t want to speculate because I don’t know and the doctors don’t know,” he said.
The 30th year coach will be frustrated with Mitch Robinson, who was reported for a high bump on Leigh Adams less than 20 minutes into his return from a two-week suspension.
Scott lamented his inconsistent side.
“Footy games are hard to win and to win them you’ve got to pay the price,” he said.
“I felt tonight there was a stink… that we were hoping the opposition would lose it.”
“That just doesn’t work.”