A sluggish start has seen St Kilda all but sew up the 2014 wooden spoon, after the side fell to the resurgent Richmond by 26 points at the MCG.
I feel like I’ve written this story before.
Yet again, it was a poor start that did the Saints in, as the Tigers piled on the game’s opening six goals during the first quarter to end the game as a contest. The first term brought back memories of the sides’ opening meeting this season, when Richmond kicked six goals to one in the first term en route to a comfortable victory.
As has been written on a seemingly weekly basis on this website this year, the Saints have been horrific starters in 2014, winning a league-worst three first quarters. Whatever preparation the players are doing, be it in the rooms, the warm-up or the team talk, clearly is not working. Something must change.
From the moment Ivan Maric kicked Richmond’s sixth goal to make the score 36-2, the Saints actually won the match by eight points – 70-62. Yes, the Tigers, knowing the job was probably done at that point, dropped their intensity at various stages and let St Kilda back into the contest. But it was heartening to see the Saints fight the contest out.
The Saints pulled within three goals during the second term, before Tigers star Brett Deledio snuffed out any realistic chance of an upset with a superb third quarter that saw the Tigers stretch the margin out to as much as 50 points. The Saints made the score line more respectable in the final term, principally on the back of debutant Spencer White, but the intensity was long gone by then.
The moment was there for him. Minutes after kicking his first career goal, Spencer White took possession at half-forward on the boundary line and looked to sprint away from Richmond’s Dylan Grimes. To his credit, the Tigers defender ran White down, snuffing out any prospect of this:
Overall, White’s game was reasonably encouraging. After looking out of his depth early, the athletic forward worked into the game and booted his first goal after some nifty bodywork on opponent Troy Chaplin, who it must be said was one of Richmond’s best players. White kicked two more goals in the final term to finish as the Saints’ leading goal kicker. It’s clear that White is a work in progress – his fitness and defensive pressure leave much to be desired at this point – but he should draw some confidence from the debut.
The turnout of St Kilda fans was hugely disappointing given the game marked Lenny’s Melbourne farewell. It’s difficult to believe we won’t see number seven again in Melbourne, but thank you, Lenny, for all of the amazing memories.
The list of St Kilda’s best players makes contains no real surprises. David Armitage led all comers with 26 possessions, and the rugged midfielder also finished with five inside 50s, four clearances and a goal. He was supported well by Jack Steven (23 possessions and seven clearances) and Leigh Montagna (21 possessions and four inside 50s).
Nick Riewoldt had a compelling duel with Richmond’s Alex Rance. With White and the ineffective Rhys Stanley up forward, the skipper had added license to roam up the ground. Riewoldt ultimately finished with 24 possessions, 14 marks (three inside 50) and two goals. Rance had 21 disposals himself, as well as a team-high 10 one-percenters, a statistic that includes spoils.
Here’s something I haven’t written much this year: Luke Delaney was soundly beaten. As he often does against the Saints, Nick’s cousin kicked a bag of goals. The other Riewoldt, who has kicked more goals against St Kilda than any other opposition by a considerable margin, finished with six majors.
From a defensive perspective, Mav Weller continued his promising back half of the season with a solid job on Tigers captain Trent Cotchin, who finished with just seven kicks from his 22 total possessions. Weller had 17 himself together with a joint team-high seven tackles. Veterans Sean Dempster and Sam Fisher also put in solid performances in the defensive 50, with both reading the play strongly and repelling multiple attacks. Both should be retained for at least one more year.
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