Rick Browner reporting for AFANA from Subiaco Oval
In the highly anticipated Round 12 game between third and fourth placed teams on the Ladder, St Kilda traveled to Perth for the second time in a month to take on the in form Fremantle Dockers. The home side was the slight favorite with the betting money but the Saints' powerhouse should never be underestimated. A loss to either side would end any chance to vie for the title of Minor Premier at the end of the home and away season. With so much at stake for both clubs, the stage was set for a close and exciting game.
Stephen Milne, in his 200th game, demonstrated some fancy footwork to score the first goal, side-stepping three opponents to get the Saints off to a cracking start. Justin Koschitzke followed quickly to put Fremantle so far on the back foot that for the first six minutes of the match they failed to move the ball into their 50 meter zone. Adam Schneider and Andrew McQualter increased the St Kilda lead before the feisty Hayden Ballantyne scored the first goal for the Dockers off a rare Saints' turnover. At this stage the Dockers’ kicking efficiency was at a dismal 50 per cent. The Saints put on a display of power football going inside their 50 meter zone 15 times to the Dockers’ five. Just as the game was in danger of slipping away late in the first quarter, Fremantle got back to basics with some fierce tackling of the ball carrier. Michael Barlow goaled from a free kick after he trapped the ball deep in the forward line, bringing Schneider to the ground holding the ball.
St Kilda continued to dominate the general play in the second quarter but could not increase their scoreboard pressure. Fremantle players were sluggish and tentative in their forward moves, kicking high and long from the half-forward line and hoping for a miracle. Instead they got contested balls and congested stoppages. Again Milne stepped up and scored three goals to have the Saints take a 25 point lead into the half time break.
Both sides increased their pressure and tackle count in the third quarter. The Dockers had the dream opening when Kepler Bradley kicked his first goal from a 50 meter penalty. The dream was shortlived as the Saints kicked the next three goals to open up a 37 point lead and looked ripe to take the game apart. The Dockers were determined to stay in the game and with the help of 38,500 fans they rallied to score the next two goals, giving them some chance as they went into the last quarter.
Matthew Pavlich had arguably the worst game of his career so far but grabbed a great mark and scored the first goal of the final quarter from 35 meters out to give the Dockers the start they needed. Paul Duffield and Anthony Morabito scored the next two goals to draw the Dockers within 16 points. It was all too late however, and when Schneider sealed the result with a late goal, the Dockers had only themselves to blame.
The Saints ran out winners by 18 points and with Collingwood only managing a draw against Melbourne, St Kilda is now in second place on the Ladder. Fremantle maintains a tenuous grip on fourth place and next week may well see them fighting to maintain their place in the Top Four. The Saints look like the team of old and, if they maintain the style of game they have produced in recent weeks, will be a genuine threat for the flag.
Scoreboard Fremantle 2.1 4.5 7.6 10.7 (67) St Kilda 4.2 8.6 11.7 12.13 (85) Best Fremantle: H, Ballantyne, A Sandilands, M Barlow, P Haselby, C Tarrant St Kilda: B Goddard, S Milne, S Gilbert, C Jones, A Schneider
Article last changed on Wednesday, June 16, 2010 - 12:49 AM EDT