The Saints last strut on the Friday night stage was another sorry affair, suffering defeat at the hands of an injury-hit Essendon team by 43-points. As has been the case for much of 2018, they were their own worst enemies giving the Bombers too many lives with poor kicking for goal and too many opportunities with even worse ball use around the ground. Four Bomber goals in a five minutes burst against the flow before halftime, brought back sour memories of a week earlier for Saints fans and went a long way to settling a contest that had appeared to be in the balance before it.
There were glimmers of hope despite the doom and gloom, not least of all the performance of second-gamer Lewis Pierce. With Saints Ruck Coach Adam Skrobalak his coach at VFL level, Pierce has clearly blossomed under the special arrangement that saw him play for Frankston rather than Sandringham. Displaying the benefits garnered from spending all year as the Dolphins number one ruck, Pierce was a standout against the Bombers. Having waited two years for his second chance at the top level, he now has two weeks to lay a claim to the number one ruck mantle for 2019.
While it might be said the Pierce had perfect timing, for Nathan Brown he might have got his wrong in a number of different ways. Late in the first quarter, Brown was late in executing a bump on the Bombers Adam Saad, which saw him stretchered from the field and unable to take any further part in the match. Given we already live in a time in which the AFL punishes on outcome more than behaviour, Brown’s bump was certain to draw MRO attention but in the wake of the Gaff/Brayshaw clash, he is likely to incur an even more disproportionate penalty. Having had his case sent directly to the tribunal it would seem that a 6-8 week punishment is coming his way rather than the 2-3 the offence actually warrants. It will be particularly perplexing given the one week ban Jed Lamb served for attempting to eye gouge Jade Gresham a few weeks ago and the $1500 fine issued to Cale Hooker for punching Daniel McKenzie on Friday night.
Despite his team being well beaten once again, Seb Ross continued his purple patch of form in his 100th game. The 25-year old had a career-high 43-possessions and, where his teammates struggled to use the ball effectively, he finished the night with a disposal efficiency of 86%. Jack Steele was another who had an impact in the middle with 31 touches, the same number of pressure acts, a team-high eight tackles and 11 score involvements. Jack Billings and David Armitage were another two Saints who got their hands on the ball. Billings also kicked two goals but his night will be remembered more for another attempt in the last quarter which was unforgettable for all the wrong reasons.
In his second game, Nathan Freeman still struggled a little but showed a greater desire to run with the ball rather than exclusively get and give like he had on debut. His first goal in the second quarter, one of the highlights of the night, was the Saints last before the dam walls burst at the defensive end. One of the few highlights that followed was another first goal from a classy finish by debutant Ben Paton in the last quarter.
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ESSENDON 5.3 10.8 14.13 18.14 (122)
ST KILDA 4.4 6.8 7.10 11.13 (79)
Essendon: McDonald-Tipungwuti 5, Fantasia 2, Stringer 2, Myers 2, Langford 2, Heppell, Francis, Hooker, McKenna, Smith
St Kilda: Billings 2, Gresham 2, Lonie 2, Freeman, Newnes, Long, Marshall, Paton
Essendon: McDonald-Tipungwuti, Merrett, McGrath, McKenna, Myers, Heppell
St Kilda: Ross, Steele, Armitage, Billings
Essendon: Goddard (right knee), Saad (concussion), Hooker (right knee), Fantasia (left hamstring), Langford (left shoulder)
St Kilda: Nil
Umpires: Deboy, Pannell, Mollison
Official crowd: 37,483 at Etihad Stadium