Living up to their rare status of pre-game favourites, the Saints overpowered Carlton at Etihad Stadium on Friday night. In a sometimes spiteful encounter, the Saints greater discipline and pressure was too much for the Blues. An eight goal to one second half seeing them power away to a 64-point victory.
Despite being wayward in front of goal, on the back of maniacal forward half pressure they were able to score at an elite rate of 53% of entries. This extreme effort illustrated in their out tackling Carlton 18-3 inside forward fifty.
After playing the lock down role to perfection in recent weeks, Jack Steele went head to head with Patrick Cripps this week. While Cripps accumulated 35 touches, it could easily be argued that Steele had a bigger influence on the game. A game-high 10 tackles and team-high numbers in disposals (33), contested possessions (15) and clearances (7) were capped off with 11 scores involvements, a goal and an astonishing 97% disposal efficiency.
Although he was the leading tackler on the ground, Steele was by no means the only Saint to roll their sleeves up. Jack Lonie and Mav Weller pressured the Carlton backline with nine and seven tackles respectively. David Armitage, Hunter Clark and Luke Dunstan were other Saints to lay five or more tackles as was Jack Newnes, a player whose defensive efforts have been questioned this season.
Injuries to Paddy McCartin and Josh Battle in the loss to Port Adelaide, presented an opportunity for Rowan Marshall to prowl the Saints forward line. It was a chance that the young forward grasped with two hands along with eight marks as he provided dangerous option inside the attacking arc. Kicking two goals from four shots, the 22-year-old has created a looming selection headache when a few others become available for selection again.
One player in no danger from Marshall’s claims for a position is Tim Membrey. With another three goal effort against the Blues, the hardworking forward’s goal kicking yips are seem well behind him. Jack Billings continued his strong form since returning to the senior team. Involved in countless attacking raids, he had four goal assists, nine inside 50’s, accumulated 30 touches and booted two majors.
No doubt coming as a shock to Bruce McAvaney, who suggested he was merely a good player rather than a champion, Jack Steven was the star of the show. Like Steele, the three-time best and fairest winner accumulated 33-touches with his run and speed causing the Blues no end of headaches. The exclamation point on an eye catching performance were a pair of third quarter goals that helped break the back of Carlton’s resistance.
Jade Gresham’s hot form saw him draw some unwanted attention from Carlton’s defenders. The man seemingly most determined to make his night as uncomfortable was Jed Goose. Sorry, I mean Lamb. The former Swan and Giant has made a point of providing these services for Carlton this season and went to work with relish on Friday night ultimately leading to a distasteful incident in the second term. Having not given away free kick despite taking Gresham to ground, pinning him with his knee and making contact with his head and neck, Lamb then clawed away at Gresham’s eyes. The Saints star can count himself lucky that these efforts failed in their intention, but not as lucky as Lamb who will only miss one match for this grubby act.
With the predictable dispatch of the Blues, the Saints now head into Maddie’s Match against the premiers having won two of their last three games. Given Richmond will provide a sterner test than they have faced during their mini run it will be a timely chance to assess where they truly sit after their abominable start to the season.
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ST KILDA 4.5 8.10 14.14 16.20 (116)
CARLTON 3.3 5.5 6.8 7.10 (52)
St Kilda: Membrey 3, Newnes 3, Marshall 2, Billings 2, Steven 2, Lonie, Sinclair, Steele, Weller
Carlton: Cripps, C.Curnow, Fisher, Kennedy, Pickett, Thomas, Simpson
St Kilda: Steven, Steele, Billings, Sinclair, Newnes, Membrey, Armitage, Dunstan
Carlton: Cripps, Fisher, Murphy, E.Curnow
St Kilda: Ross (illness) replaced in selected side by Rice, Webster (groin)
Carlton: Kreuzer (elevated heartbeat)
Umpires: Dalgleish, Stevic, Gianfagna
Official crowd: 33,780 at Etihad Stadium