After kicking five goals against the same opponent at the same venue in 2017, Jade Gresham followed this performance up with a bag of six on Saturday at the MCG. In his 50th AFL game he came alive in the third quarter, and on the back of his three goal burst the Saints claimed an 12-point lead at the midway point of the term. Despite the lively forwards best efforts, for the second week in a row, the Saints were unable to find the necessary composure to take advantage of a two kick lead in the second half and fell to 28-point defeat.
Facing a Richmond team chasing their 14th straight victory at the MCG, the Saints initially struggled to find a way through their opposition’s full ground defensive press. Their fortunes changed for the better however once they began switching the ball.
Having unlocked a path through the Richmond wall, the Saints settled into their uncontested possession game. Moving the ball out of defence confidently a number of players racked up large disposal numbers, five had more than 30 touches. Despite this, they were let down continuously with turnovers and their last disposal into forward fifty.
These difficulties were compounded by an inability to lock the ball in the forward half when they did get it there. In perhaps the most disappointing stat of the day, the Saints were only able to lay one tackle Inside Forward 50. It is a measurement of effort that the team has been strong in over recent weeks but failed miserably in on Saturday. Their opponents on the other hand, not content on finding an option much more readily, were also relentless when the ball came to ground laying ten tackles inside the attacking arc.
On Monday night Gary Lyon observed that the loss of Nick Riewoldt had been felt more harshly than that of any other superstar in recent times. The truth in his observation was observable in the Saints failure to get across the line against the Tigers. Having wrenched control of the game and the lead, they were bereft of the one star to lead them to victory. For so long that man was Riewoldt and the vacuum his retirement left behind remains painfully obvious.
On the bright side a number of young players looked right at home in the top grade. Logan Austin in his first game for the club showed promise as did Ed Phillips and Bailey Rice in their third and second games respectively. Other positives was seeing Paddy McCartin and his helmet getting through the game unscathed and Tim Membrey getting back on the goal kickers list, even if it did require a generous handpass from Gresham.
An ugly incident in the first quarter which saw Jack Riewoldt unable to complete the game, is likely to see Jake Carlisle out of action for the next week or so. Much of the talk during and after the game was in praise of Richmond playing through reduced rotations. What the commentators failed to notice was the difficulties the Saints were encountering with their bench. Luke Dunstan, Brandon White and Jack Newnes all spent extended periods on the bench creating headaches for Alan Richardson and his coaching staff. White’s injury also putting a dampener on the Boys Own Manual story of his first AFL game with childhood friend Bailey Rice.
In the end, much like they did against Collingwood a week earlier, the Saints conceded a barrage of goals in short time after missing their own opportunity to ram home an advantage in the third quarter. By games end that was all but forgotten as the Tigers eventually recorded a relatively comfortable victory. While there were undoubted positive signs, it is hard to escape the fact that they let an almighty chance to record a win slip through their fingers. Until they find a way to do so disappointing results like this, or worse, will continue.
RICHMOND 3.3 6.4 10.9 15.15 (105)
ST KILDA 2.0 4.3 9.5 12.5 (77)
Richmond: Caddy 6, Butler 3, Vlastuin 3, Martin 2, Cotchin
St Kilda: Gresham 6, Membrey 2, Steven, Billings, Lonie, Newnes
Richmond: Caddy, Cotchin, Martin, Short, Butler, Grigg
St Kilda: Gresham, Steven, Ross, Webster, Carlisle, Geary
Richmond: Riewoldt (concussion), Houli (groin)
St Kilda: White (right thigh), Dunstan (right shoulder)
Reports: Jake Carlisle (St Kilda) reported for striking Jack Riewoldt (Richmond) in the first quarter
Umpires: Margetts, Harris, O’Gorman
Official crowd: 48,850 at the MCG