In This Round…NAB Cup Semi-Final

By Tom Briglia

On the Thursday of each week in the lead-up to a St Kilda match, we take a stroll down memory lane and take a look at memorable clash in St Kilda history from the corresponding round.

Essendon vs St Kilda, NAB Cup Semi-Final, 2008
Essendon 0.1.6, 1.7.6, 1.9.10, 1.12.10 (91)
St Kilda 0.3.0, 0.8.2, 1.9.10, 1.12.13 (94)
Crowd: 26,079 at Telstra Dome

The integrity of the pre-season competition was besieged by increasingly intense scrutiny as the aughts progressed, but this semi-final was a high-standard see-sawing contest in front of a healthy crowd.

St Kilda would scrape through on their way to a third pre-season premiership in 13 years on the back of a David Armitage goal from close range in the final minute, from a free kick awarded against Angus Monfries for holding the ball.

Both sides went in without a number of leading lights; the Saints were missing players including that year’s Trevor Barker Award-winner-to-be Sam Fisher, Brendon Goddard, Justin Koschitzke and Max Hudghton, whilst the Bombers were missing Matthew Lloyd, Dustin Fletcher, Adam McPhee and Andrew Lovett, amongst others.

A slow-moving match burst to life in the second quarter, and when David Hille kicked a raking nine-pointer goal after two goals each from Andrew Welsh and Jay Neagle to put the Bombers out to a 13-point lead, it seemed the young side was gaining the ascendency.

But the Saints would force their way back into the match through the hard work Lenny Hayes and Clinton Jones out of the middle, and goals to captain Nick Riewoldt, in his first appearance of the season, and Stephen Milne.

Michael Gardiner, after an injury-plagued introduction to his new club in 2007, kicked truly at the beginning of the third term, and Jarryd Allen kicked a nine-point goal when fellow youngster Paddy Ryder cost his side a 50m penalty and brought the Saint well within striking distance of the goals.

All of a sudden, St Kilda led by 12 points, and it seemed the cool heads of Riewoldt, Hayes and Nick Dal Santo would build upon the break.

But Neagle would impose himself on the match further by booting two goals in short time before the final change, and when it arrived, scores were tied.

Two goals to Ryder replenished his standing in the game, but these were answered by goals to Dal Santo and Shane Birss, after the latter took a great contested mark inside the 50-metre arc.

Ryder’s fellow youngsters for the red and black in Jay Nash and Brent Stanton grappled with St Kilda’s more senior stars throughout a long, pulsating period in which no team could land a knockout blow, until a hectic final four minutes.

The theme of youth taking centre stage this night continued when Courtney Johns put the brave Bombers up by four points with only a after marking on a lead; the Saints looked as if they would come up short in finding a last-gasp winner.

But 19 year-old David Armitage found himself in front of goal after catching Angus Monfries holding the ball with 51 seconds left in the match.

Armitage kicked truly in his all-blue boots, and a free kick to Xavier Clarke across Essendon’s half-forward line after the resulting centre bounce found a brave Charlie Gardiner marking wide, and the Saints were on their way to another pre-season premiership.

Other installments of “In This Round”:
NAB Cup Round 2 – St Kilda vs Carlton, Waverley, 1995
NAB Cup Round 1 – Collingwood vs St Kilda, Telstra Dome, 2006