Pies beaten in the middle, but step forward on Queen’s Birthday

Collingwood were belted in the middle of the ground and in the ruck by a rampant Max Gawn, but Nathan Buckley was pleased his team had taken a big step forward in rediscovering its form after a poor month.

The Magpies defeated Melbourne by 41 points in front of 74,036 people at the MCG on Queen's Birthday and entrenched themselves in second spot on the ladder, a game clear of third.

Max Gawn had the better of the ruck battle with Brodie Grundy.Credit:AAP

Having dropped a game against Fremantle last week, other results fell Collingwood's way this round after fellow top four contenders GWS, West Coast and Richmond all lost.

Buckley was pleased his side controlled the game defensively even though they were beaten in clearances and contested football. Melbourne had also been unable to punish them on the scoreboard with wayward goal and field kicking.

"We felt like we set it up the way we wanted to," Buckley said.

"We had some time from our last game and we really haven’t liked our last month, to be honest. We just needed to get back to closer to the brand we wanted to execute and the first half was definitely that, there were still elements in the second half we can improve on. You are not going to take those great strides in one step so it was a step in the right direction and a positive outcome for us, more so the way we went about it.

"If we compare ourselves against where we think we should be, we have still got some work to do.

"Largely we were just in better shape defensively we looked like we were able to control the game with the shape of our defence mainly."

Gawn was dominant with 34 touches – his most ever in a game – and had 33 hitouts, 10 clearances and took five marks.

"We were smacked at clearances, Max Gawn was a really strong factor in that, but most of their midfielders had big games. 'Brodes' [Grundy] had his moments late and fought through but we were largely coming off the back foot. We were minus 17 in clearances, minus 30 in contested ball, so we must have been doing something right in transition to be able to control the game for as long as we did.

"That’s an outlier for us. If we played again next week you would like to think we can handle that better but it’s a real positive how we set the ground up and defend. Especially the centre bounce, we got smacked there as well and we were still were able to kick 2.2 going our way and kept Melbourne to three or four points."

Buckley said Grundy had been in doubt all week and had played sore with a neck injury. "He will really hate me saying this," Buckley said

Jaidyn Stephenson kicked three goals and could have kicked another three or or four in an impressive performance from last year's rising star.

There was a contentious decision in the first quarter, when a mark was not paid to Jeremy Howe and a free kick awarded to Tom McDonald instead, after Howe put his foot on McDonald's back to spring for the ball. The rule was an application of the change this year to prohibit players having their "studs up" after Toby Greene's dangerous foot-in-the-air marks last year.

"Technically it is in the rule book now," Buckley said. "We are really good at finding the one thing the rules book does not seem to cater for, we just seem to want to find that one contest that does not get catered for.

"Of course I wanted the mark to be paid, but to the letter of the law I could understand why it was a free against."

Collingwood's medium forwards beat Melbourne with Stephenson, Will Hoskin-Elliott and Jordan De Goey each kicking three goals. Melbourne had more shotsbut were costly in front of goal – they finished with a wasteful 7.15.

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