Despite lowly expectations going into their Round 22 clash with top-four aspirant Hawthorn, the Saints looked the likely winner for much of the final quarter on Saturday night. Unfortunately, a career-high four-goal haul from Jack Lonie not enough to escape the clutches of an ‘honourable defeat’. A slow start and a ten-minute breakdown in the third quarter ultimately proved too much for them to overcome in a thrilling contest that saw them fall one straight kick from an upset victory.
We were a bit disappointed with how we played, particularly in the last 40 minutes of the game. To be fair, I think the better side lost tonight.
Hawthorn Coach Alastair Clarkson Post Match
As has been the case for much of the season, the Saints were slow starters and found themselves three goals behind at quarter time. The margin might have been a little inflated by the inadequacies of the decision review system. The first of Jack Gunston’s four goals dribbled through after seemingly being touched by Daniel McKenzie. The goal umpire wasn’t convinced that the backman had made contact with the ball, even after having watched him almost escort the ball through in readiness for a kick in.
As is the case in 99% of cases where the soft call is a goal, there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn the decision. While understanding the difficult position the reviewer found themselves in, McKenzie’s lack of urgency appeared to indicate a level of certainty that he’d touched it. That said, Stephen Silvagni is positive that he touched Michael Long’s iconic 1993 Grand Final goal despite missing it by about two metres.
The absence of the suspended Nathan Brown and the late withdrawal of Jake Carlisle, due to the combination of back soreness and the birth of his first child, saw greater responsibility on the shoulders of Logan Austin and Hugh Goddard down back. For Goddard, it had been a long wait for game number 10 having torn his Achilles tendon during his ninth some 805 days earlier. He will be better for the run and would be expected to play game number 11 against the Kangaroos next week. Austin was particularly impressive, reading the ball well and displaying exceptional ball use and decision in his efforts to repel Hawthorn’s attacking thrusts.
The much-maligned Jack Lonie has been solid for the Saints in recent weeks but against the Hawks, he was a live wire. While maintaining his high-pressure levels, in the third quarter Lonie turned the contest on its head with three goals to see the Saints draw within nine points at the final change after trailing by 24-points only 10 minutes earlier. He would finish with four for the night in the best performance of his short career to date and will be looking forward with some confidence to game number 50 against the Kangaroos in Round 23.
Jack Steele was given the responsibility of curbing the effectiveness of Hawthorn ball-magnet Tom Mitchell. Living up to his ‘Backpack’ nickname, Steele limited the Brownlow favourite to just nine first-half disposals. So effective was the Saints stopper that he found himself reassigned to the damaging Jaeger O’Meara who had been on fire in the first half. While O’Meara would end the game as the Hawks best, Steele with his 29 disposals, seven score involvements and a goal to be the standout Saint on the night.
Seb Ross continued his ball-winning ways with another 34 hard earned disposals against the Hawks. Averaging 32 touches in the back of the season and 36 across the last five weeks, he may well have put himself in position to win back to back Trevor Barker Medals.
Jade Gresham furthered his claims to elite status with another electrifying performance. Things just happen whenever the mercurial 20-year-old is within vicinity of the ball. There was no better example of this than in his score assist for David Armitage in the second quarter.
Having collected the ball on the halfback line he followed up his pass and regained possession with a deft touch on centre wing. Then, after driving the ball inside forward fifty, he presented himself once again and upon receiving the ball he then delivered it laces out to Armitage.
Ben Long, in his second game back, would also have excited Saints fans with his speed and creative spark. In the first quarter, a cheeky snapped shot may well have been a late nomination for goal of the year if not for him failing by millimetres in his efforts earlier to prevent the ball crossing the goal line for a behind. This didn’t prevent him from adding to his highlight reel this week though, a spectacular chase and tackle on Tom Mitchell in the third quarter brought Saints fans to their feet.
Setting up camp in their forward half in the games later stages, the Saints kept the Hawks goalless in the final term. Despite this territorial domination, they could only find one themselves in this time. In the games frantic final moments, after a piece of Gresham magic failed to find the mark, Ross and Jack Steven both drove the ball forward desperately in search of marking forward. Despite these efforts, when the final siren brought an end to proceedings, the winning goal was not to be found.
While Alastair Clarkson and many others agreed that the better team was beaten on the night, this meant little at game’s end. Anyone surveying Etihad Stadium upon the result becoming known, and seeing Jack Lonie distraught and prone on the ground, would attest there was no consolation in running a good team close. Just despair.
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ST KILDA 1.3 6.6 10.9 11.10 (76)
HAWTHORN 4.4 7.5 12.6 12.8 (80)
St Kilda: Lonie 4, Membrey 2, Billings, Gresham, Newnes, Paton, Steele
Hawthorn: Gunston 4, McEvoy 2, Breust 2, Burgoyne, Impey, Nash, Worpel
St Kilda: Steele, Lonie, Geary, Ross, Gresham, Steven, Billings
Hawthorn: O’Meara, Gunston, Burgoyne, Mitchell, McEvoy, Worpel
St Kilda: Jake Carlisle (back/personal reasons) replaced in selected side by Sam Gilbert, Geary (concussion)
Hawthorn: Frawley (jarred back)
Umpires: Margetts, Williamson, Glouftsis
Official crowd: 24,795 at Etihad Stadium