St Kilda’s big men have earnt new coach Alan Richardson a gritty first round AFL win over Melbourne.
In a match unlikely to have bookies slashing the odds of either side making the finals, Melbourne failed to make their chances stick as the Saints ran out 10.8 (68) to 6.15 (51) winners.
Despite the Demons dominating the possession, efficiency and inside 50 count, St Kilda’s forward targets proved the difference.
The Saints put the game beyond Melbourne’s reach in 10 brutal minutes in the third quarter, with Nick Riewoldt kicking two in a four-goal blitz.
Riewoldt finished with three goals and 23 touches, with Rhys Stanley (two) and David Armitage also amongst the goalkickers.
The Demons struggled without tall forward targets Mitch Clark, Chris Dawes, Jesse Hogan and were dealt another blow in the second quarter when Jack Fitzpatrick was subbed out.
Down back, key defender Tom McDonald kept Riewoldt quiet until an injury hampered his movement. He was stranded on the field by Fitzpatrick’s early substitution.
The attacking outs didn’t seem to hamper Melbourne early – with Jimmy Toumpas and Dean Terlich kicking the first two goals of the game.
But the Demons were unable to convert their forward chances, with their next 10 scores all points to trail by seven at half-time.
The Saints’ second and third quarter ascendancy saw them kick eight goals to two – enough to keep them out of Melbourne’s grasp all night.
Clinton Jones (39 possessions) and first-gamer Luke Dunstan were impressive in the middle for St Kilda, while for the losing side Nathan Jones (38 possessions) and Dom Tyson were among the best.
Jack Watts’ midfield conversion worked well before he was sent forward to help with Melbourne’s patchwork attack.
St Kilda released the substitute vest from number three draft pick Jack Billings at three-quarter time.
He had the chance to make his first kick in AFL worth six points but hit the post with the goal at his mercy.
A last quarter Tyson major brought the Demons to within two goals but the Saints steadied through James Gwilt and Jarryn Geary to hold on for their 17-point win in front of 31,607 people.