ST KILDA’S season is back on level pegging following its three-point loss to Brisbane on Friday evening in Wellington.
Alan Richardson will rue a poor first half and some costly missed opportunities in the dying minutes following the Anzac Day clash.
Farren Ray and Jack Billings both missed late chances which would have put the Saints ahead for the first time.
Both opportunities were kickable, with Billings attempting to dribble a heavy and wet footy off the side of his boot and Ray nervously poking at the ball after finding space 25 metres out from St Kilda’s goal.
Leigh Montagna’s 37-disposal performance was instrumental in the comeback after St Kilda trailed by as much as five goals late in the second quarter. The Saints ball-winner had 21 kicks, eight tackles, six clearances and booted two goals in a performance that was adjudged as best-on-ground worthy post-game.
Montagna’s influence was considerable at either end of the park, and he finished with five rebound 50s and six inside 50s to further underline his domination.
Yet it was ultimately not enough – St Kilda leaving itself too steep of a hill to climb in conditions hardly conducive to free-flowing, fast-scoring football.
Lenny Hayes amassed 34 touches and was an integral cog in the clinches for the entire evening. It was the first time the veteran has collected more than 30 disposals in consecutive games since rounds 18 and 19, 2010.
Fellow midfielder Jack Steven was well-held early but worked his way back into the contest and demonstrated great dash in the latter stages, while Jarryn Geary and Sean Dempster shouldered much of the burden in defence and both won their share of the ball too.
Tom Curren excelled once again on the opposition’s most dangerous ball-winner, limiting Tom Rockliff to just 17 possessions. Already the young Saints has claimed the scalps of Patrick Dangerfield, Bernie Vince, Adam Treloar and Dyson Heppell, and this individual victory was yet another feather in his rapidly crowding cap.
In a game that was fiercely contested in tight confines with space and time hard to come by, St Kilda finished with more disposals, more inside 50s and more contested possessions than the previously winless Lions, but registered 61 clangers for the match.
It was this lack of efficiency, primarily by foot, that proved costly in the first half.
For the majority of the first three terms, St Kilda was well below its best. Not only were the Saints midfielders aside from Montagna and Hayes not finding the footy, but when they did, they weren’t giving Nick Riewoldt or Rhys Stanley (one goal each) any decent chances to hit the scoreboard.
And since contested marks were almost impossible to grasp given the conditions, any long kick to a contest largely discounted the Saints skipper and the back-up ruckman.
Despite the 25-point deficit at half-time, there was always a sense that Alan Richardson’s men would rebound at some stage. Unfortunately from a Saints perspective, this rearguard action came too late and proved insufficient, if only just. .
Eli Templeton’s influence was short-lived, with the young forward subbed in the first term with a suspected broken arm. He was replaced by Shane Savage, who provided much-needed run and pressure for the remainder of the contest but conceded a 50 metre penalty in the dying minutes which consigned the Saints to their third defeat of the season.
BRIS: 12.10 (82)
Montagna, Hayes, Geary, Dempster, Steven, Curren
Montagna 2, Jones 2, Dunstan, Riewoldt, Stanley, Saunders, Dempster, Curren, Billings