While it is probably fair to say that there weren’t too many Saints fans overly carried away by the teams three wins from four games, the performance against the Tigers still might have come as a rude reality check nonetheless. So wracked were the Saints by indecision and imprecision in the face of the ruthless Richmond first half onslaught, that it could be argued that the 58-point margin at the main break flattered them. It was a much improved effort in the second half but all heat had long left the contest.
To add insult to injury post match, Richmond Coach Damian Hardwick was less than impressed with his team despite their comfortable victory. “It’s funny – I thought we played better last week,” he said in reference to the Tigers two point defeat to GWS.
As disappointed as the Richmond coach might have been it would pale in contrast to that felt by Saints fans on the night. A year after their team had dismantled the Tigers in the corresponding fixture, they received further evidence that result was nothing more than a false dawn. Rather than the announcement of the Saints as a genuine force it was instead the wake up call that stirred the Tiger juggernaut from its slumber.
Despite winning an even share of the ball and clearances, the Saints failed to gain a foothold in the contest and drowned in the Tigers yellow wave. Punished relentlessly for their errors, one goal and a 32-point deficit was all they had to show for a first quarter in which they won just two less possessions and clearances.
David Armitage continued his run of form in the first quarter. The veteran midfielder was one of the few Saints to have an impact early in the contest and snagged the first goal for the team. This honour should have been Tom Hickey’s if not for a horrible miss after marking strongly in front of goal. It’s unlikely that the ruckman will enjoy the review of the game with another of his efforts later in the match costing a goal at the other end.
A long range Richmond shot was floating harmlessly across the face of goal. With Hickey tracking its path it seemed destined to end up in his grasp or 30 rows into the grandstand. However, a lack of intensity from the big man saw neither occur and the ball instead marked uncontested by Josh Caddy. It was a gift that the Richmond forward gleefully took full advantage of afterwards by kicking truly. He was far from on his own on this front though with many of his teammates no doubt thankful that missed tackle stats aren’t made public.
Despite the doom gloom there were some bright lights that shone through. Jack Steven may well have kicked the goal of the year with his volley to open the scoring in the second half. Rowan Marshall again displayed the promising signs from the week before with an eye catching seven mark performance. Former Giant Jack Steele will square off against his old team next week in perhaps the best form of his career. While he mighn’t have continued his string of five goal games against the Tigers, the most exciting player of all remains Jade Gresham.
The electrifying 22-year old again displayed his rare touch and control of the ball on Friday night. While many fans will associate the number four jersey with Tony Lockett but in Gresham it isn’t hard to picture another former owner of the famous number – Darrel Baldock. Poised, balanced and difficult to tackle whenever Gresham is near the ball it feels like something is going to happen. He caused the Tigers trouble all night with seven clearances, six inside 50’s, two goals and a goal assist.
Next week will see the Saints head to Sydney to take on GWS, another team that provided them a highly valued scalp last year. Having won six of their last seven, the Giants are one of the form teams of the AFL. With a top four berth on offer if they can continue their winning ways, the Saints should expect another torrid encounter. Will they be better prepared to weather it than they were against the Tigers?
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ST KILDA 1.2 2.3 5.7 8.9 (57)
RICHMOND 6.4 11.7 14.10 16.15 (111)
St Kilda: Membrey 2, Gresham 2, Hickey, Marshall, Steven, Weller
Richmond: Riewoldt 4, Prestia 3, Caddy 2, Higgins, Martin, Lambert, Cotchin, Rioli, Edwards, Grigg
St Kilda: Ross, Steele, Steven, Gresham, Geary
Richmond: Prestia, Martin, Rance, Riewoldt, Short, Lambert
St Kilda: Nil
Umpires: O’Gorman, Pannell, McInerney
Official crowd: 36,269 at Etihad Stadium