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Analysis: Pies have been solid so far

Highlights: Super Stephenson Jaidyn Stephenson is having some sort of game and clunks a huge mark over Melbourne's Marty Hore.

The annual Queen's Birthday clash would have been quickly circled as a must-watch when the AFL fixture was released in November.

Collingwood had just played off in the Grand Final, while Melbourne had ended an 11-season finals absence in charging into a preliminary final, with promise of better to come. 

There was every reason to believe they were both among the top handful of flag contenders for 2019.

Entering next week's bye, the Magpies – despite a scratchy past month where they were fortunate on occasion – are holding up their end of the bargain, sitting second with nine wins from 12 matches.

The latest of them was a comfortable 41-point defeat of the Demons, in a game that threatened for much of the afternoon to be a black-and-white blowout.

Virtuoso Steele Sidebottom and Adam Treloar midfield showings, plus some forward-50 class from Jaidyn Stephenson, Will Hoskin-Elliott and Jordan De Goey, proved the difference on Monday.

Stephenson took a hanger over Marty Hore, clutched onto six marks inside 50 – several after blistering leads – steered through three goals, missed three others and put another two out on the full.

Collingwood would still love to go to another gear, but there's plenty of time for that and its galaxy of stars would be the envy of most – even with Dayne Beams booked in for hip surgery.

Nathan Buckley's men will get their chance for September redemption, but that won't be the case for Melbourne.

The Demons' season never really got going, and they are beginning to make an artform of finding ways to lose.

Their kicking inside 50 continues to be historically inept, and some of the indecisive ball movement against the Pies bordered on comical at stages.

Tom McDonald's anemic campaign added another chapter, with the exclamation mark coming when he missed a set shot in the final term that would have dragged Melbourne within 14 points.

On a more positive note, McDonald's young partner-in-crime Sam Weideman showed signs of life after a similarly difficult season.

For all the discussion on Monday about the Pies' failure to properly put the foot on the Demons' throat, two key numbers suggest the game should have been far more competitive.

They thumped Collingwood in contested possession (170-143) and the clearances (46-29) and barely lost uncontested possessions (248-255) and had one fewer scoring shot (7.15 to 15.8).

Melbourne's losses in the previous fortnight to West Coast and Adelaide came largely because of poor goalkicking, finishing the latter match with an extraordinary 1.11 to go down by two points.

The Demons also have the bye in round 13, a time to contemplate everything that's gone wrong and what they can do to somewhat salvage a wasted year.

As for the Magpies, tougher challenges are to come, but they'd be quietly chuffed with what they've achieved through the first half of the season.