Are the Saints good?
For three-quarters the Saints were locked in an epic arm-wrestle with the ladder leading Power at Adelaide Oval. Then despite the first of a series of short turn arounds and a hostile crowd, they were too strong when it mattered and ran away with a famous victory.
Famous victory, you say? Well just five days ago the Saints had never won at the Adelaide Oval, they’ve now won their twice. In doing so they have recorded just their second South Australian double in 23 years. It also means that in less than a week they have doubled their victory tally from the 10 years between 2010 & 2019.
Are they good? Well they are starting to look 2020 good, which really is only as good as you need to be in 2020. But there is a log jam at the top of the ladder for a reason and there is a long way to go. What they wouldn’t give to have those fade outs against North Melbourne and Fremantle back?
How the Game Was Won
The Saints ability to absorb pressure and take advantage of limited opportunities were telling factors in this result. Nowhere was this more evident than when Port Adelaide took control of the ball and territory at the beginning of the third quarter.
Trailing by three points at half time, the Power came out looking to break the contest open after the break. A Charlie Dixon mark inside attacking 50 inside 13 seconds looking a portent of things to come. Yet despite having the next eight forward entries, eight minutes later they could manage just two behinds to lead by five points. As is often the case in situations like these, Port’s wastefulness was quickly compounded at the other end.
It would take the Saints just three forward entries to kick their first goal of the quarter and just one more to add a second. Just like that, despite trailing the inside 50 count 4-9 for the quarter, the Saints had jumped out to a seven point lead. A Xavier Duursman goal would reduce it to one by three-quarter time, but a massive psychological victory had been won by the visitors.
Having absorbed Port Adelaide’s best shot, it was one way traffic for the Saints in the final term. Dominating clearances for the term, winning 14-8, they were able to dictate terms and would have a staggering plus 11 advantage in forward entries. Unlike their opponents in the third quarter, this final quarter domination would be reflected on the scoreboard. With unanswered goals to Jade Gresham, Dan Butler, Paddy Ryder, Tim Membrey and Max King, the Saints ran away to win, what had been a close contest, by 29 points.
What the Coaches Said
Ken Hinkley acknowledged his midfield were outpointed post match. “Yeah, there is no doubt they were better than us around the ball tonight. They had dominance from the rucks and then they were able to get ground level dominance as well. They were physically stronger.
“That’s a challenge for our boys. A couple of times we have been beaten. It’s not that we’re not capable, but there has been nights we haven’t been able to perform at the level we want. So I don’t want anyone to go, “we’re not hard enough”. We’re genuinely a pretty hard team. Tonight, we weren’t.”
He bristled at suggestions his backline was too short for the task. “I think if you look at the way they got their goals, they went for marks. They had, I think, four marks inside their forward 50. I don’t think it was an in-the-air issue for us, I think it was a supply issue from them coming down. We’re taller tonight than we have been in previous weeks. I don’t think height is the issue. It is the way the ball comes that will cause you problems,” he said.
“To be fair, I think they kicked one point, didn’t they? They didn’t miss. Even the goal reviews, we’ve spoiled the ball. That’s not a height issue, is it? It’s just their ability to be effective when they got it in there. That’s what they’ve been good at all year.”
Brett Ratten felt the performance was an example of how much his team had learned from their mistakes in 2020. “Yeah, it’s – I suppose when you look at your season and you probably, you know, look at some games, you think, “Jeez, we had some opportunities to win those games.” I think it’s, you know, really allowed us to look and grow and educate the players and, you know, even us as coaches about what’s, you know, the right way for us to play and how do we play and when we’re under pressure, what do we do?”
“A couple of the losses we have given up big leads, been ran over. So I think that’s really held us in good stead moving forward. You know, for us it is about consistency. I thought our work around the stoppages and the contest was really, really pleasing. You know, [Paddy] Ryder really set the scene. To have those two boys [Ryder and Dougal Howard] come across here and, you know, come to our football club and then come back to here and play and play against their old team and play so well was, yeah, very pleasing for them.”
PORT ADELAIDE 2.1 4.4 6.6 6.8 (44)
ST KILDA 1.1 5.1 7.1 12.1 (73)
Port Adelaide: Powell-Pepper, Gray, Georgiades, Marshall, Dixon, Duursma
St Kilda: Marshall 2, Butler 2, Membrey 2, Ryder 2, Hind, Kent, Gresham, King
Port Adelaide: Byrne-Jones, Ebert, Wines, Houston, Ladhams
St Kilda: Jones, Steele, Clark, Marshall, Billings, Gresham, Ross
Port Adelaide: McKenzie (back spasms) replaced in selected side by Westhoff, Marshall (thumb)
St Kilda: Ross (left calf)