Are the Saints 2020’s most exciting team?
With his second goal of the match, Josh Battle helped the Saints to the highest game total of 2020 and helped them to first place in the competition for points scored this season. While we understand that not all points are created equal when it comes to judging excitement it provides an insight into the volume at which they are scoring relative to other teams.
Dangers exist for their opposition all over the ground. While some teams are struggling to kick eight goals across two weekends, the Saints are averaging nearly eight individual goal scorers every game. With options aplenty up forward, they are playing with a freedom that is thrilling to watch.
What becomes of them this season is yet to be determined but their sharp rise from bottom six to top four contender looks set to be an enthralling journey. If they aren’t the most exciting team in the 2020 competition, we haven’t seen the team that is across the nine games we are watching each weekend.
How the Game Was Won
For the third successive game, the Saints have overcome a bogey team through a combination of ruthless efficiency in attack and desperate defence. Just like they had against Adelaide and Port Adelaide, they found themselves under supreme pressure in the third quarter. Yet despite spending much of the term under siege, like they had against the SA teams, they negated the scoreboard impact of their opponents domination.
Having absorbed the Swans best shot, the Saints unleashed a withering burst in the final quarter that their coach described as ‘brilliant’. Starting in the middle of the ground they dominated the hitouts and clearances when it mattered to consistently drive the ball forward. The free reign this afforded saw the St Kilda midfield run and spread with extraordinary effect.
Dominating marks, marks inside 50, inside 50’s, uncontested possessions, bounces, and tackles too, the Saints efforts in the final quarter were unrelenting. By the time the final siren they had kicked six goals to one and appeared to have plenty left in the tank. Every last drop of it will be called upon over the next two weeks as they look to complete their mission of four games in 15 days.
What the Coaches Said
Brett Ratten was understandably proud of how his team ran out the game but acknowledged a concerning trend with their third quarers. “They way we finished the game was really pleasing,”he said. “The third quarter’s a little bit of a worry. We’ve had a few now, it’s not the first time. So that’s one part of the game we need to clean up but the last quarter was brilliant,” he said.
He explained that he kept it simple when asked about his three quarter time message. “We can’t go back into our shell,” he said. “Probably in that third quarter our ball use, we played a little safe and we didn’t play our way. But the contested ball was poor. There was no doubt about it that Sydney lifted up the intensity around the footy and we got beaten in that space. So that was the real message was just let’s roll our sleeves up, get back in there and also our ball use.”
Asked about the unusual aspects of the 2020 season he explained that the Saints welcomed the challenge. “I think the whole season is about embracing change,” he said. “It’s not the same as what we had before. This is a new season and these are opportunities for us as a football club. Our away record was something like 2-11 and to try and clean that up this year will be great because we aren’t playing back at Marvel, there’s no games back there. So we have to do something about it and the last three weeks have been really pleasing,” he said.
After working their way back into the match in the third quarter, John Longmire bemoaned his teams inability to win enough contests in the fourth. “We got smacked in the centre bounce clearances at the start of the fourth [quarter] and then we couldn’t defend when it was in there,” he told reporters post match.
“When they got ground position from the centre, they then got in there a few times, and they were more efficient at scoring when it was forward of centre. We had a lot of repeats in the third quarter, and when they had that pressure in their forward half they scored in that fourth quarter. When the ball gets down their, as it did with ground positioning, you’ve got to try and break even at a few more contests and we couldn’t do it,” he said.
While acknowledging that inconsistency played a part, and that it is common in young teams, he admitted they needed to be better. “Well I think that’s [inconsistency] what the reality of playing younger players was, is,” he said. “But there has got to be a standard to it that we have to keep driving and we don’t just sit there and say ‘we have a young team and have some blokes learning the game”. We’ve got actually say ‘ok, what’s acceptable and what are the areas we’ve got to improve’. So we’ve got to keep driving that standard and making sure that no matter what we do we get better at it.”
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ST KILDA 3.3 7.4 9.6 15.11 (101)
SYDNEY 2.1 3.6 5.10 6.12 (48)
St Kilda: Hind 3, King 3, Battle 2, Butler 2, Gresham 2, Geary, Jones, Clark
Sydney: McCartin 3, Florent, Papley, Sinclair
St Kilda: Steele, Gresham, Hind, Jones, Clark, Billings, Paton
Sydney: Parker, Florent, McCartin, Lloyd, Cunningham
St Kilda: Ross (calf) replaced in selected side by Savage