Rick Browner reporting for AFANA from Subiaco Oval
Over the last few seasons St Kilda has been a team that you could bank on to win just about every game they played. This season, with the loss of their key goal kicker, Nick Riewoldt, they have been shaky, losing three out of eight games. The West Coast Eagles have not fared much better but they were coming off two wins in a row and playing at their home ground in front of 38,000 faithful fans. The bookmakers had the game evenly balanced and there was an air of belief in Perth that the Eagles could knock the Saints down a peg or two.
St Kilda won the toss and kicked with a very strong breeze. Justin Koschitzke kicked the first goal from a free kick to which the Eagles replied with a couple of costly behinds. Andrew Embley, back from a few weeks suspension, kicked the Eagles’ first goal and gave them a slight lead. The windy conditions made shots at goal tricky and caused both sides to have low kicking efficiency when passing the ball. West Coast applied strong pressure to the Saints’ ball carriers and kept their scoring opportunities to a minimum. Ben McKinley took a great mark in the goal square and his conversion saw the Eagles take a five point lead on the siren.
Both teams traded goals to start the second quarter. Despite having a howling gale at their backs the Eagles insisted on using handball to move the football around. This gave the Saints more opportunities to gain possession. Steven Milne received a pass from Brett Peake in the pocket and turned around on the run to slot one of the goals of the day. Not only was it a superb goal, it put the Saints in front by three points and boosted their confidence. West Coast's McKinley came into his own late in the quarter kicking two more goals to give him four for the match so far. The Saints' stars were not in form and they lacked leadership. A dubious free kick to Adam Schneider, who appeared to have staged a dive for the umpire, brought them back to within six points as the first half ended.
With the game up for grabs, two of the Eagles steadiest midfielders, Adam Selwood and Beau Waters, scored goals. Selwood’s came from a free kick 40 meters in front, while Waters took advantage of an intercept from a poor kick in by Koschitzke. This gave the home team their biggest lead of the game and things were looking rosy. The Saints had other ideas, and when Steven Milne and Ben McEvoy scored the next two goals, the stuffing was knocked out of the Eagles. Brendon Goddard put the Saints ahead with a game-changing goal and suddenly they were running harder and digging deeper as they sensed that all was not lost. Led by Captain Lenny Hayes, who had eight possessions in this quarter alone, St Kilda proceeded to march all over the bumbling Eagles, scoring five goals to two in the third quarter to lead by 16 points.
When St Kilda scored first in the final term there was a collective groan from the crowd as they saw what has become the hallmark of the Eagles – the last quarter fade. Selwood kept them within touch with a mark and goal before the game was split wide open by the Saints. They rolled right over the Eagles in the final 15 minutes of the match, scoring the last nine out of ten goals. Everyone wanted a piece of the action with Farren Ray, Michael Gardiner and Nick Dal Santo adding to the list of goal kickers for the Saints.
When the siren finally sounded, much to the relief of the Eagles' crowd, nine Saints had scored goals. This was a huge statement to the rest of the competition that even without their champion player Riewoldt, they are a potent scoring team and should not be taken lightly. The future for West Coast on the other hand looks dismal. It is hard to see where the Eagles are going to win games with an in and out of form forward line and no desire to fight at the finish.
Scoreboard West Coast 2.2 5.6 7.7 8.8 (56) Saint Kilda 1.3 4.6 9.11 13.13 (91) Best West Coast S Hurn, B Waters, M Priddis, B McKinley, D Cox, A Selwood Saint Kilda L Hayes, B Goddard, S Milne, A Schneider, F Ray, R Clarke
Article last changed on Wednesday, May 26, 2010 - 8:24 PM EDT