St Kilda has caused one of the upsets of the season by thumping a sloppy and disconnected Richmond outfit by 40 points at the MCG on Friday night in front of just 14,787 fans.
The Tigers were held to just 2.10 (22), their lowest score in 60 years, when they were restricted to just 0.8 (8) in Round 16, 1961 – coincidentally, also against the Saints.
In fact, Richmond were held to their lowest half-time score since Round 16, 2017 and three-quarter time score since Round 13, 2009 – both times also coming against St Kilda.
Left reeling in the 13th spot on the ladder after a spectacular capitulation against Adelaide in Cairns a fortnight ago, the Saints responded to that failure in stunning fashion, emphatically taking down the reigning back-to-back champions on the back of superior aggression and hardness.
The Tigers could now find themselves out of the top eight by the end of the round with their finals aspirations now placed in a degree of jeopardy with just eight weeks left in the regular season, although they do have a fairly easy run home.
The slippery conditions ensured it wasn’t pretty, but that suited the Saints just fine as they adapted far better than the Tigers. Thanks to a clear victory in contested possessions (142-124), and a domination of the clearances (41-23), which was made possible by the reassembled Paddy Ryder-Rowan Marshall ruck tandem dominating the hitouts 44-20, St Kilda’s hunger and commitment remained insatiable over the course of four quarters.
The performance made it almost inconceivable that 10 short weeks ago, Richmond pulverised St Kilda by 86 points.
The inside-50 count finished at 42-42 but Richmond could only manage two goals compared to the Saints’ nine.
Richmond’s dirty night was compounded by a suspected ACL knee injury to star defender Noah Balta, while Nathan Broad (syndesmosis) and Nick Vlastuin (cork) finished the game hobbled as well. The win came at a cost for St Kilda, too, with late inclusion Nick Coffield injuring his hamstring.
Luke Dunstan was crucial to St Kilda’s victory, racking up 32 disposals (17 contested), 11 clearances, nine inside 50s and a goal, to be the best player on the ground.
Yips? What yips?
St Kilda were the worst set shot team in the competition heading into this game, with Jack Higgins and Max King coming under extra scrutiny for their recent performances in front of the big sticks. So when they had three goals between them already by the seven-minute mark of the second term, from a variety of challenging angles, it was certainly a bad omen for the Tigers. King’s couple of goals were particularly impressive. The first one late in the first stanza came via a set shot from a tight angle in the pocket, and the second was a sensational snap shot from around the corner from a severe angle early in the second term.
They all go up …
Perhaps no incident summed up Richmond’s game better than when Nathan Broad, Nick Vlastuin and Marlion Pickett all flew against Mason Wood deep in St Kilda’s forward line midway through the third quarter. While they all went up for an unnecessary three-on-one, Ben Long remained planted on the ground, and soccered through the spillage for a goal to extend St Kilda’s lead to 28 points. Early in the final quarter, the frustration continued for the Tigers as Jack Riewoldt failed to spot up Mabior Chol by himself in the goal square, instead kicking it out of bounds for a throw-in.
Jimmy Webster personified St Kilda’s new-found commitment when, early in the second quarter, he backed back into a pack and got absolutely cleaned up by Callum Coleman-Jones, including a nasty knee to the back which floored him for a few moments. But he got back to his feet and played out the rest of the game.
TIGERS 0.5 1.6 2.7 2.10 (22)
SAINTS 3.2 5.3 8.7 9.8 (62)
LERNER’S BEST Tigers: Vlastuin, Grimes, Martin, Graham. Saints: Dunstan, Ryder, Wilkie, Howard, Steele, Crouch, Marshall
GOALS Tigers: Martin, Edwards. Saints: King 2, McKenzie 2, Higgins, Wood, Dunstan, Long, Ross.
INJURIES Tigers: Balta (knee), Broad (ankle), Vlastuin (cork). Saints: Coffield (hamstring).
LATE CHANGE Jack Billings (knee) was replaced in St Kilda’s selected line-up by Nick Coffield.
UMPIRES Stevic, Deboy, Fleer
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
3 L.Dunstan (StK)
2 P.Ryder (StK)
1 C.Wilkie (StK)