A dark season for the Saints plumbed to new depths on a dark Saturday night at Etihad Stadium. A bright start, which saw them take a 28-point lead early in the second quarter, was squandered in horror third and fourth quarters. Embarrassingly the worst second half team in the competition put them to the sword to hand them a 35-point defeat.
FREEZER COMES IN FROM THE COLD
That the night would end so disappointingly was a bitter pill to swallow after it opened with one of the feel good stories of the year. Over 1700 days after he was drafted, Nathan Freeman was finally able to make his AFL debut. Although a fitting reward for his years of perseverance, his selection came only after seven weeks of good form in the VFL, this was anything but a token game for the 23-year-old. Playing on the wing, it wasnt surprising that he took a little time to adjust to the pace of AFL footy but by games end he had collected 19-touches in a solid first game.
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Given the teams well documented slow starts, the Saints entered round 20 with the worst differential in the first 20 minutes of games, when they led by three goals at this stage against the Bulldogs things looked extremely positive. So positive in fact that Danny Frawley on radio suggested the Saints might well run out 20 goal winners, so you can probably blame him for what followed.
SAINTS STOP IN SECOND HALF
After kicking six of the first seven goals of the game, the Saints could manage just three more for the night as they were completely played off the park by the fast finishing Bulldogs. In a worrying sign ahead of their date with the Bombers, whose run and spread is infinitely superior to the sons of the west, the Saints had no answer to their opponents ball movement as they moved from one end of Etihad to the other with absolute ease.
Once the Saints lost the initiative in the contest, the coup de gras was delievered swiftly and ruthlessly by the Bulldogs. Feasting on Saints errors, and with Marcus Bontempelli causing no end of chaos up forward, the dogs kicked five goals in ten minutes at the back end of the third quarter to consign the final quarter to junk time status.
With the last 30 minutes nothing more than a margin guarding exercise, against a team with just one win from their last 10 games, it was a painful experience for the red, black and white faithful. That the team was able to ‘win’ the final term was scant consolation for those supporters who had tuned in or turned up to Docklands with high hopes of another victory.
SEB SWIMS AGAINST THE TIDE
It would have been equally disappointing for Seb Ross, whose efforts deserved better than to be part of a comprehensively beaten team. The reigning Trevor Barker Medallist was one of the few Saints who could leave the ground happy with his performance having collected 40-odd touches and kicked his first three goals of the season.
Injuries did play a part in the match, with Josh Battle’s first quarter concussion robbing the Saints of a key tall and backup ruckman. The second part of the equation was especially costly with it requiring Jake Carlisle to pinch hit in the middle when Tom Hickey needed a breather. Not only did it take him away from the back half, where he was starring early, by games end he looked to be moving like an especially ungainly 80-year-old man.
When Hickey himself suffered tendon damage to his hamstring, Blake Acres was called into the ruck and an already well beaten midfield lost another much needed rotation. That Hickey lurched back onto the park and planted himself in the goal square, so that this rotation could be reclaimed, should be commended in what could well prove his final involements of the 2018 season.
The sight of a clearly hampered Hickey attempting to make an impact in the games final stages a living embodiment of the Saints lurching towards defeat from their strong early position. Once again a long and sorry season found another way to disappoint before it’s conclusion brings an end to the misery.
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ST KILDA 4.2 7.4 7.9 9.14 (68)
BULLDOGS 0.5 6.6 14.12 15.13 (103)
St Kilda: Ross 3, Lonie 2, Newnes 2, Membrey, Geary
Bulldogs: Bontempelli 4, Schache 3, Greene, Jong, Macrae, Hunter, Dickson, Lipinski, Wallis, Crozier
St Kilda: Ross, Gresham, Webster, Lonie, Billings
Bulldogs: Bontempelli, Johannisen, Dunkley, Hunter, Morris, Daniel
St Kilda: Battle (concussion), Hickey (hamstring)
Bulldogs: Smith (concussion)
Umpires: Haussen, Dalgleish, Fleer
Official crowd: 20,748 at Etihad Stadium