Chris Kowald reporting for AFANA from Optus Stadium, Perth
The Fremantle Dockers responded to a third quarter revival by the Saint Kilda Saints to do enough to keep a clean record against interstate teams at Optus Stadium. The game was played in warm evening conditions after the daytime temperature had reached 90 degrees Fahrenheit and would have sapped player energy.
Despite this, both teams flooded players to the ball creating a tight and congested game which was punctuated by occasional moments of creative team football.
The large number of players at the contest made it difficult for either team to establish clear patterns of play. Aaron Sandilands’ ruck dominance against Tom Hickey gave the Dockers an edge at stoppages and Nat Fyfe and Lochie Neale out muscled St Kilda’s Luke Dunstan and Shane Ross in the middle of the ground. Both defenses stood firm for the first thirteen minutes as players for both sides struggled to hit targets in the midfield and in attack. The first goal was a result of a free kick to Hayden Ballantyne after Shane Savage had pushed him in the back. A minute later the Saints fumbled the ball in the midfield to see another Docker veteran, Danyle Pearce, slot a nice goal on the run from 48 meters. The third Dockers goal resulted from some good work from Ballantyne who got the ball to Cameron McCarthy who kicked long to the height of Sandilands. The big man marked and then kicked truly. St Kilda scored their first goal after Sam Gilbert laid a good tackle on Docker defender,Taylin Duman, to keep the Saints in touch at the first break.
The second quarter continued to be a dour struggle in the midfield. The Dockers added four goals and restricted St Kilda to just three points. The Dockers' goals came from quick transfers where they kicked long into an open forward area. The highlight came ten minutes into the quarter after St Kilda had scored a point. Luke Ryan boomed a kick-in almost to the center of the ground, where Fyfe flew against three St Kilda players, the ball spilled to ground with Fyfe first to recover and handball to David Mundy, who booted long. Brandon Matera used his pace to gather in the goal square and boot a remarkable coast-to-coast goal. St Kilda lost marking (catching) power when Jake Carlisle was concussed after Nat Fyfe’s knee hit his head as they battled for a ground ball. St Kilda persisted with contested football for the quarter, but only scored two points for their efforts.
After the main break, Lochie Neale took advantage of an umpire call to ‘play on’ to stretch the Dockers’ lead to seven goals. The Saints knew they had to do something. They lifted their running game and found space to work through the midfield and capitalize with their open forward line. Ed Phillips, (24 possessions and 5 tackles and 1 goal) playing his debut game, was impressive for the Saints.
Tim Membry, Rowan Marshall, Jade Gresham (twice) and Jarryn Geary all found the big opening to narrow the margin to three goals at three quarter time. Both teams missed a number of goals they should have kicked but Tim Membry (1 goal 5 behinds for the game) inexplicably missed two sitters that could have had the Saints at the Dockers’ throats by the last change.
The Dockers responded in the final quarter with increased pressure around the ball. St Kilda players fumbled whereas the Dockers used handball to get out of tight situations and set up scoring chances. The Saints managed one goal through Tom Hickey but the Dockers’ small men sealed the result with goals to Adam Cerra, Darcy Tucker and Brandon Matera. Brennan Cox provided a marking target and mobility for the Dockers up forward and finished with a running goal with two minutes remaining on the clock.
Next week the Dockers travel to Sydney to meet the Swans. St Kilda return to Etihad Stadium to play the Collingwood Magpies, the situation has now become desperate for the Saints who sit third last on the table.
Scores Fremantle Dockers: 3.2 7.5 9.9 13.11 (89) Saint Kilda Saints: 1.2 1.5 7.7 8.11 (59) Best Fremantle Dockers: Fyfe, Neale, Sandilands, Langdon, Blakely Saint Kilda Saints: Dunstan, Phillips, Acres, Webster, Steele
Article last changed on Monday, May 28, 2018 - 5:36 PM EDT