BRISBANE LIONS 4.3 8.5 10.9 12.10 (82) ST KILDA 2.2 4.4 7.8 11.13 (79)
GOALS Brisbane Lions: Brown 2, Redden 2, Taylor 2, Raines, Merrett, Zorko, Aish, Green, West. St Kilda: Jones 2, Montagna 2, Billings, Saunders, Dunstan, Riewoldt, Stanley, Dempster, Curren.
BEST Brisbane Lions: Patfull, Zorko, Redden, Raines, Adcock, Aish, Hanley. St Kilda: Dempster, Hayes, Montagna, Gwilt, Ray, Steven. INJURIES St Kilda: Templeton (arm). CROWD: 13,409 at Westpac Stadium.
For St Kilda, it was the one that got away. For Brisbane, it was the undoubted highlight of a season during which it hashitherto been the competition's punching bag.
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Lions hold on
Brisbane have notched up their first win of the season.
The Saints were made to pay for a lack of intensity at the start of the match and a lack of composure at the end, as the Lions held on for a three-point win.
Crucial misses in time-on from Jack Billings, Shane Savage and Farren Ray, the latter when he was in space only 35 metres from goal, when St Kilda was within a goal of snaring the lead for the first time in the match, instead allowed a shock win for Brisbane, which had won only one quarter in its first five matches.
Nick Riewoldt, the supposed key player to shaping the outcome, took two marks in the opening eight minutes but had to come all the way up to the lead to get them, which would have pleased Brisbane. They were his only two marks of the half as the underrated Joel Patfull blanketed him, albeit aided by inaccurate service from Riewoldt's teammates.
Brisbane's gun forward, Jonathan Brown, was similarly shackled, but it had a much smaller effect on the Lions because of the Lions' healthy spread of goalkickers: eight in the first half alone.
The Lions entered the match as the only win-less team in the competition, and their desperation to shed that status was reflected in them trumping the Saints for pressure - their forwards were diligent in locking the ball in their half - and precision of ball use, not just early but for the majority of the first half.
The recalled Andrew Raines was, along with captain Jed Adcock, the inspiration behind his team's unexpected 23-point lead at the main break. By half-time the pair had 33 possessions, five tackles and eight rebounds from the defensive 50 between them. While goalkicking-midfielder Tom Rockliff struggled with the tag of Tom Curren, it did not hurt his team because his fellow dangerous midfielder Dayne Zorko grew in influence in the second quarter.
By that stage St Kilda's only clear winners were Sean Dempster, both in defence and floating up the ground, and the hard-running Leigh Montagna, as well as Jimmy Gwilt on Brown.
That Brisbane outscored the Saints four goals to two in each of the first two quarters was the least they deserved, with the bonus that their opponents were forced into a first-quarter substitution: New Zealand-born Savage on after Eli Templeton suffered what was later confirmed as a broken arm.
A key difference between the teams was Brisbane's ability to attack centrally. The Saints had to attack through the flanks, but were able to do so often enough in the third quarter to force their way back into contention.
Winning that quarter by a goal was the least deserved by the Saints, for whom Lenny Hayes' and Jack Steven's influence was surging. A pivotal turnaround was first-year forward Billings hitting the post from just outside the goalsquare in time-on for the Saints, and then Lions captain Brown nervelessly converting from long range on a tight angle just before the siren.
St Kilda began the last quarter with a 19-point deficit but, even allowing for Brown's rove and snap from the top of the goalsquare, conclusively seized the momentum. Of the five goals kicked in the first 11 minutes four came from the Saints, the last of which, from Leigh Montagna, levelled the scores for the first time since the opening 90 seconds of the match.
By time-on the Saints, despite their dominance, still had not been in front, beyond kicking the first behind of the match. The Lions regained their one-goal buffer after Jack Redden's raking kick forward was deemed after a score review to have passed over both Brown and Montagna in the goalsquare.
For the last 16 minutes the match was reduced to an arm wrestle. The Saints looked the stronger team for that entire period, but were unable to deliver the final blow it needed, to the chagrin of the Saints-favouring crowd of 13,409 at Westpac Stadium.