Round 6 – Western Bulldogs vs St Kilda
Western Bulldogs 2.2, 3.7, 6.8, 6.10 (46)
St Kilda 1.2, 2.3, 4.3, 7.7 (49)
Crowd: 43,072 at Etihad Stadium, 7.40pm Friday, April 30
Somehow, St Kilda won.
And what else to say about this game? It frustrated, berated and baited both players and fans all night; it seemed for so long as though all were simply waiting for the Bulldogs to land a killer blow, St Kilda players included.
The Saints had managed just 4.7 by the time Stephen Milne kicked a goal with less than five minutes remaining, which sparked – in the context of this low-scoring arm-wrestle – a big comeback, which left the Bulldogs and their supporters in disbelief when the siren sounded.
Though the same could be said about the Saints.
For most of the night, the Bulldogs were sharper, more direct and more purposeful. But St Kilda had done enough to stifle their impact on the scoreboard, sticking to defensive structures and placing enough pressure on the Dogs in and around their forward to ensure scoring opportunities were rare.
Bulldogs spearhead Barry Hall was kept to only one goal by opponents Sam Fisher and Zac Dawson, with help from Jason Blake, Sam Gilbert and James Gwilt.
Of course, the Saints had to score goals themselves, and had an incredible amount of trouble doing as much until the last few minutes of the match, in which their pressure created turnovers and space enough to be direct and dangerous going forward.
Until then, Justin Koschitzke had only little influence on the contest as St Kilda’s leading forward target, after a strong first term in which he scored 1.1 and provided great physical presence in the forward line.
But his move into the ruck during the final term brought him back into the game, and may provide a massive clue as to how to best harness his massive potential from here.
Two goals each from Stephen Milne and David Armitage, and singles from “Kosi”, youngster Jack Steven and Sam Fisher – his snap would prove to be the match-winner – were incredibly enough to get the Saints over the line, after looking toothless for nearly the entire night.
Four consecutive behinds from gettable opportunities (Montagna twice, Dal Santo and Milne the culprits) in the final term should have sounded the death of the Saints’ chances before the onslaught. But the Dogs missed huge chances to ice the game themselves; it was a lucky night for the boys from Moorabbin.
Indeed, acting captain Lenny Hayes said to Tim Watson post-match on Channel 7 that the team still hadn’t quite clicked with the forced changes to the forward structure. There is still some experimentation and learning to be done.
Hayes was St Kilda’s best last night, with 35 touches and seven tackles. His willingness to run, follow up his own ball and harass the Dogs was a big reason the Saints were able to stay in touch throughout the night.
“Ugly Saints snatch it”
Michael Gleeson, The Age
“Saints win thriller in dog fight”
Sam Edmund, Herald Sun
“Gutsy Saints down Bulldogs in a thriller”
Murray Belkin, AFL.com.au
“Rucking role the only way forward for Kosi”
Dan Silkstone, The Age
Watch Ross Lyon’s post-match press conference
Highlights and Match Summary at AFL.com.au
Watch the Full Match Replay at AFL.com.au
Listen to discussion of last night’s match and an interview with Nick Dal Santo from today’s The Rub on Triple M.