Rick Browner reporting for AFANA from Perth
Australian Rules Football lost one of its legends this week when Allan Jeans passed away. Jeans was the coach who took St Kilda to their only Premiership in over 100 years. It was going to be an emotional game for the Saints and these occasions can make for either inspiring wins or lamentable losses. St Kilda took the bull by the horns and ripped right into the West Coast Eagles in a cracking first quarter.
Stephen Milne was the lucky recipient of a free kick to put the Saints on the board first after a scrappy start to the game. There was a lot of congestion and multiple ball-ups early in the piece. The Eagles were not using the ball well while the Saints were sparkling in their disposals. Raphael Clark was playing the quarter of his career and scored the next goal for St Kilda from a 40 yard snap that went through the middle. With their slick handball and hard attack against the Eagles' much-vaunted press, the Saints had another quick goal on the board through Justin Kozchitske. When he followed with his second soon after alarm bells began to ring in the West Coast camp. Jack Steven scored the Saints’ fourth goal after a stoppage in play, and it would have been game over had Nick Riewoldt kicked truly from a gift in front of goal. The Eagles could not get their hands on the ball and were chasing tails for most of the quarter. When they did find the ball, they wasted opportunities with poor kicking. Ryan Gamble took St Kilda further in front after cleaning up a poor Reiwoldt kick into the man on the mark. It was a blitz with the Eagles managing a solitary point for the quarter, trailing by 36 points at the siren.
Gamble continued the rout with a goal from a free kick and the game looked out of reach for the Eagles. It took until almost half time for West Coast to kick their first goal through Brad Ebert. Luke Shuey kicked their second to spark some hopes of a comeback, but it wasn’t an easy road. The Saints had time and space with their possessions as the Eagles’ forward press broke down. Andrew Gaff made the match more interesting when he goaled from a long Mark Nicoski kick from the center. This made the Saints a little nervous with their kicking, as there was now some inferred pressure from the Eagles. Dean Cox missed an important chance when he kicked a behind from a very gettable shot while Milne made the most of an Ebert turnover to goal against the flow of play. When interviewed at the end of the first quarter Coach John Worsfold said the Eagles had a chance to show their mettle when things weren’t going their way. After winning their last five games they needed to do the small things properly to get back into the match. Nicoski brought them back into contention when he goaled after some classic end to end play. The Eagles had stuck to the basics and outscored the Saints in the second quarter to give themselves a chance of winning.
Third quarters have not been the Eagles’ strong point of late with the last six lost. Teams that win big games generally consolidate the win during this quarter and the Eagles needed to show the Victorian fans that they were contenders. Show them they did. St Kilda did not score in the quarter and looked rattled. Nic Naitanui is a star in the making and an imposing presence whenever he is near the ball. He came to life and started to leap over all opponents, both in the ruck and in marking contests. Gaff was the beneficiary of a classy play, scoring a major from a terrific Naitanui mark and handball to advantage. Gaff was having a real influence on the game. His pass to Nicoski and the resulting goal had the visitors on a charge. A stoppage in play gave both teams a chance to regroup as James Gwilt was stretchered off the ground with a knee injury and the Saints’ sub David Armitage was activated. Josh Kennedy brought the Eagles back to within five points with a strong mark and true kick. The Eagles were tackling in numbers and had a fierce hunger for the ball. They had multiple targets in the forward line and when Quinten Lynch goaled they hit the front for the first time in the game. What a turnaround! West Coast had held the Saints scoreless in the championship quarter while having six scoring shots of their own. They led by two points at the break and West Coast wished the third quarter could have gone on for another hour.
Jack Darling was substituted for Kobe Stevens to start the last quarter for the West Coast. Despite the Eagles’ relentless attack and pressure tackles, Milne marked and goaled first for the Saints. Coach Ross Lyon sent an extra man to the Saints’ back half to shore up the defense. Naitanui won a ruck contest and in another brilliant passage of play, snapped a goal in the pocket to keep the game alive. It was to no avail as the Saints went on to kick the next four goals. All the play was happening in their forward half. Two clanger kicks by West Coast defender Eric Mackenzie resulted in goals and the Eagles were out on their feet with no answers to the forward pressure of the Saints. Ironically it was two Western Australian players, Brett Peake and David Armitage, who nailed the coffin shut for the Saints with late goals.
In the end Saint Kilda finished a comfortable 21 points ahead. The defeat may have cost the Eagles a spot in the Top Four temporarily but there are more opportunities ahead to secure that position. The Saints are on a winning streak and their earlier losses in a listless start to the season are a distant memory. It was a fitting end to a match to honor one of their great club members and Allan Jeans would have been proud of their fight.
Scoreboard West Coast: 0.1 4.2 8.6 9.7 (61) St Kilda: 6.1 8.4 8.4 13.4 (82) Best West Coast: N Naitanui, A Gaff, L Shuey, D Cox, D Glass, St Kilda: L Montagna, R Clarke, S Milne, B Peake, S Fisher
Article last changed on Friday, July 22, 2011 - 3:33 AM EDT