Were the Bombers trying to bore the Saints to death?
What exactly was the Bombers strategy for beating St Kilda on Sunday? From where we were watching it, outscoring them wasn’t a part of the plan. In fact, apart from a five minute period at the start of the second half, scoring seemed to be the furthest thing from the Bombers minds.
Just how differently both teams approached the game was on show in a passage of play late in the first quarter. Rowan Marshall intercepted the ball on the half forward flank and the Saints immediately looked to take the ball down the corridor towards goal. In their attempts they turned the ball over in the dead centre of the ground.
What did the Bombers do after winning the ball in the most dangerous position of the ground with their opposition defence out of position? Did they look to take advantage of a gilt edged scoring opportunity and quickly move the ball forward? Ofcourse not, they took the ball wide and waited for the Saints to regroup.
While the list of players missing from their forward line is well publicised, and no doubt would make scoring difficult, refusing to attack makes it impossible. What exactly were they waiting for? Their opposition to drop dead from boredom? The sun passing through the third quadrant? Your guess is as good as ours because whatever it was, it didn’t present itself at any stage on Sunday.
How the Game Was Won
The Bombers had thee of the top four ball winners for the day. Their top four averaged 26 touches between them. They won the possession and clearance battles. Their ball use was cleaner and they had more inside 50s.
Yet they didn’t lead for a single minute of this match.
In the end it was a difference in intent that brought them undone. Whereas the Saints saw the winning of possession as an opportunity to score, the Bombers treated it as a means to prevent scoring. Where the Saints took risks and kicked long in pursuit of a winning score, the Bombers seemingly avoided both at all costs in the hope that four or five goals would be enough. Not even falling seven goals down in the second quarter was enough to shake them from this thinking.
What the Coaches Said
Brett Ratten was proud of the way his team bounced back from their Monday night loss to Geelong. “I thought our first half was very good. We got the game where we wanted it at half time,” he told reporters post match. “To respond the way that we did was really good,” he said.
After making a point of it after the Geelong game, he was pleased that Brad Hill was utilised more often by his team. “It’s still building that connection between Hilly and the group. When’s the right time and when’s the wrong time. He got more of it tonight which was great but I thought there was some really good players for us. I thought Josh Battle’s first half was fantastic and his ability to impact the game. Max [King] looked like he was going to kick a big score early doors and even Timmy Membrey and Marshall up there aswell. We had a few things going right.”
He wasn’t as happy with his team’s efforts after half time. “The second half. There’s some things that we probably didn’t like,” Ratten said. “We got a little bit cute and we tried to muck around with the footy. Really fuelled their in-out in-plays and that gave them 25-30 inside 50s in the second half. So I thought we did a really good job when the game was up for grabs, we rolled our sleeves up got the job done and got ourselves in a good position. But we could have given Essendon an opportunity there [in being cute and mucking around with the footy.]”
After a poor first half, John Worsfold was pleased with how his team responded in the second. “Obviously at half time we had to address a fair few things and ask the players to change up some things about how we were playing. So in that second half, really pleased about the way the players responded to what we asked them to do and how they went about it,” he said.
“Created a lot of opportunities in the second half which we still weren’t good enough to capitalise on which is obviously an area of massive improvement for us. But some of our ball movement in the second half was getting back to the way we want to see it, we just didn’t end up get those shots at goal inside our forward 50. Which is an area we know we have to continue to work on.”
ST KILDA: 4.4 7.5 9.5 10.8 (68)
ESSENDON: 1.0 2.0 4.1 5.3 (33)
St Kilda: King 3, Membrey 2, Battle, Butler, Hind, Lonie, Ryder
Essendon: Begley, Langford, McDonald-Tipungwuti, Saad, Townsend
St Kilda: Jones, Battle, Billings, Steele, Clark, King
Essendon: Parish, Shiel, Merrett, McGrath, Langford
St Kilda: Paton (concussion)