The Saints have bounced back.
After two losses to begin the season, St Kilda held on to defeat Collingwood 69-55 at Etihad Stadium, with both sides left to rue missed opportunities. St Kilda looked the better side after a slow start to the first quarter, and new recruits Nathan Brown and Jake Carlisle looked solid down back. Although St Kilda escaped with the win, there were a lot of talking points from the Easter Sunday clash.
Young Guns Stand Tall
St Kilda's reliance on its old guard is well documented through the last two season, as the likes of Riewoldt, Montagna and Steven have all been relied on heavily for the Saints to win games. Although Riewoldt was good again today (when isn't he?) he wasn't the driving force behind a hugely important win.
The lift game from youngsters Acres and Billings while Roberton and Newnes displayed the quality that's expected of them at this point in their development.
Acres dash and bursting runs from defence and through the midfield provided a frequent avenue out of defence and demonstrated his elite use of the football, and he set the game up for St Kilda.
Roberton was probably best on ground in this game, and he has fit well into the loose man role across the back six. Playing the role that Savage played last year, Roberton's intercept marking and distribution from the backline was fantastic, and he controlled the pace and tempo of this game for the Saints. He was calm on the ball throughout the first quarter while the Saints were under sieged and his ability to switch the play and counter attack meant the Saints could really pack a punch when going back up the other end.
The impressive performance of these four was complemented by good contributions from Ross, Steele and Weller who all instil hope of a bright future for the Saints if their young stars can continue to play at this level.
Defensive Structure Looks Fantastic
Make no mistake St Kilda was under siege in the first quarter, and it was the defensive unit that kept the Saints from getting blown away early by the Pies. Brown and Carlisle in the key defensive posts were fantastic, keeping Jesse White and Darcy Moore to a combined 12 disposals and one goal two behinds. The two never worked their way into the game, and it was a credit to not only Carlisle and Brown but the structure around them which allowed the Saints to lock down the forward line.
Collingwood only managed 12 marks inside 50 from 50 entries, which is a credit to the two for their lockdown effort. Roberton drifting across contests and taking intercept marks and launching rebounds was key to keeping the pressure off the Saints. Not only did they thwart many a Collingwood attack, but rebound scores were crucial to St Kilda leading for much of the contest.
Geary and Webster were also brilliant for St Kilda, and Geary has stood up since taking over the captaincy. Webster's speed off the backline was also good, and if he continues to play like this, it will be hard for Savage to work his way back into the lineup.
Ben Long Is A Good Fit
Although he didn't have a lot of the ball, Ben Long looked likely to in his debut game for the Saints. Experts questioned his selection so early in the draft, but he showed today why the bayside club selected him with pick 23 in the 2016 National Draft. Long has x-factor about him, and he does look like a Rioli after all. Long is lightning quick, and he made a lot of contests and looked to be clean with his hands. Not only did Long look a likely type but the forward line looked much better, and aggressive, with him in it.
The Saints pressed Collingwood into an enormous amount of errors with Lonie, Gresham and Long swarming over the Collingwood defenders.
If Long can develop quickly No.1 pick, Paddy McCartin may very well find himself the odd man out in St Kilda's forward line.
A good win for the Saints against Collingwood was just what the doctor ordered. Although the skills were a bit lacking (and goal kicking an issue again) the strong defensive structure has set the precedent for the side, who will need to build on this throughout the season if they want to be playing into September.
A gritty performance this week, however, gets the Saints the four points and confidence rolling into the Hawks in Tasmania next week.