ST KILDA 5.0 8.1 12.4 15.5 (95) GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 4.2 9.3 11.5 13.10 (88)
Goals: St Kilda: N Riewoldt 5 T Hickey 3 E Templeton 2 D Armitage F Ray L Dunstan L Montagna S Dempster. Greater Western Sydney: D Smith 5 J Giles 4 J Cameron J Townsend L Whitfield S Mumford.
Umpires: Stuart Wenn, Robert Findlay, Jason Armstrong.
Official Crowd: 19,640 at Etihad Stadium.
As the clock was about to tick into time-on during the third quarter at Etihad Stadium on Saturday, those who had tipped St Kilda not only to lose its game against Greater Western Sydney but finish the season bottom of the ladder, would have been feeling pretty comfortable.
The Giants, about the only side the pundits had potentially finishing beneath the Saints, looked to have their measure. Younger and looking considerably fresher, GWS had at first matched then passed its opponent, and after something of a stalemate in the third term, its second goal of the quarter ground out a 20-point lead - its biggest of the game.
|View Match Statistics|
|Players||Riewoldt (5.1), Hickey (3.0), Templeton (2.0), Armitage (1.0), Dempster (1.0), Dunstan (1.0), Montagna (1.0), Ray (1.0), Maister (0.1), Stanley (0.1), Wright (0.1)||Scorers||Smith (5.1), Giles (4.0), Cameron (1.3), Mumford (1.0), Townsend (1.0), Whitfield (1.0), Patton (0.2), Scully (0.1), Treloar (0.1)|
But for a side popularly condemned to the cellar in 2014, St Kilda seems to be relishing any opportunity to defy expectation.
The Saints rattled off the next four goals to turn that deficit into a three-quarter-time lead.
They increased it further with the first couple of the last term, and managed to steady again after GWS gave it one last shot with a fourth goal to the perhaps unlikely shape of ruckman Jonathan Giles and a fifth to Devon Smith getting the up-and-comers to within one point. Indeed, the clincher came courtesy of St Kilda's own bit of fresh football meat, the shaggy-haired ball of energy that is Eli Templeton.
This, though, was a win engineered by both old and newer Saints. Not surprisingly, once again at their forefront was skipper Nick Riewoldt, who booted five goals and gave one away. He was at the heart of that third term turnaround and gave his side a little breathing space at the start of the last when he slotted a goal from the boundary line.
For a second week, the Saints' oft-criticised midfield workhorse Clint Jones was everywhere, even his vaguely comical attempt to kick on his right side late in the game turned out for the best when Templeton marked the miskick and threaded the match-winner. David Armitage led this game for both disposals and clearances, besides taking an early contender for mark of the year.
And young ruckman Tom Hickey looked the goods, booting three goals before half-time. In fact, it was a great day for ruckmen all round, He and Giles booted seven goals between them. And former Swan turned Giant Shane Mumford added another, on the run, no less. Mumford's white shorts looked even bigger somehow below his new orange jumper, but given the size of the shadow he cast over the game, that was appropriate.
In the first term, both teams rattled off a run of three goals, an entertaining and open start. If round one had shown the fighting qualities of the Giants and Saints, the first stanza of this contest was a chance to show they could play a bit as well.
While it wasn't a great day for the Giants' big forwards, Jeremy Cameron and Jonathon Patton were mere bit players, Smith was the man with his smart positioning, while Toby Greene and Stephen Coniglio won plenty of the ball, along with, as usual, Callan Ward. Josh Kelly more than impressed, picking up a dozen touches despite only coming out of the substitute's vest in time-on of the third term.
St Kilda had been overly Riewoldt-focused early, but when he worked a little further up the ground and Hickey had a spell forward, all of a sudden the Saints' forward set-up had the potency it had lacked. It was Hickey who booted the last two goals of the first quarter with strong marking after Farren Ray had brought his side closer, and the Saints led at the first break.
They started the second term in textbook fashion, too, Hickey's tap from the opening bounce finding Armitage, his pass hitting Lenny Hayes, who in turn found Riewoldt. But far from go into their shells, that seemed to be the cue for the Giants to grow again.
Giles did what Hickey had done for the home team with two good grabs and goals. Cameron made it three on end after a comedy of St Kilda errors - Sean Dempster's goal-square fumble and Sam Gilbert's turnover.
It was moments such as those that made the "too old, stale and nowhere near good enough" hypothesis about the Saints this season look pretty accurate.
But while they would never admit to feeling affronted by the lack of critical respect, St Kilda, like Mark Twain, would at least enjoy correcting what may end up being some exaggerated reports of its death.