ST KILDA 7.9 (51) d GOLD COAST 7.6 (48)

Matt Rowell of the Suns (L) is challenged by Hunter Clark of the Saints.

Matt Rowell of the Suns (L) is challenged by Hunter Clark of the Saints.Credit: Getty Images

KEY POINTS

WORST GAME OF THE YEAR
There was a game in the 1990s when then Western Bulldogs coach Terry Wallace blew up at a journalist who had cheekily suggested they were playing so poorly the league would need to lock the gates to keep the fans in. The same line could have been used tonight. One of the worst games of the season was saved only by its closeness – because the Saints could not turn their domination in the first half into a lead of any significance. At half-time, the Saints were +21 for contested possession, five ahead in clearance and had seven more entries inside 50, but their advantage was just 14 points. Many will pin this on Ross Lyon’s defensive style, but you have to doubt whether he would have wanted his men to move the ball in such a sloppy manner. Too often, the Saints pulled the trigger on their inside-50 kick from too far out, resulting in shallow entries in less threatening areas which also denied them repeat entries to keep the ball locked near goal. Instructively, one of their best forays forward produced the match-winning goal from an off-the-ball free kick. A short kick which found Tim Membrey leading into space in the middle created panic in the Suns backline, pressuring Mac Andrew to hold Max King. King, who can be shaky near goal, converted from 20 metres out. Many in the partisan but small crowd of 17,902 would have been glad they came, but there’d be many more at home even happier to have given this one a miss.

WHAT THIS GAME MEANS
The Saints’ three-point win keeps their finals flame flickering, two games and significant percentage out of the eight with 10 games to play. They will have to play a lot better to threaten but this, and the narrow victory against West Coast, will give them belief they can make a run in the second half of the year. Their injury list has also dwindled in recent weeks. The most pleasing aspect of St Kilda’s performance was their work at the contest, winning clearances by 10 and the contested ball by 20, against a Gold Coast team that views this area as one of their strengths. Their defence, missing Dougal Howard from the opening minutes, also stood up, particularly in the last quarter when the Suns made a belated charge. Jack Sinclair’s kick for touch from deep in defence in the closing seconds was, to borrow commentary great Dennis Cometti’s phrase, centimetre perfect. As for Gold Coast, this was another wasted opportunity. A win would have had them in the firing line for the top four, now they will be out of the eight by the end of the round. Rarely will they get a better opportunity to win on the road. Their record away in the past two seasons now stands at a dismal 2-15.

IS WINDHAGER ROSS’S STEVIE BAKER II?
Steven Baker used to drive opposition stars batty with his uncompromising style. Ross Lyon may have found another tagger for his second coming to Moorabbin in Marcus Windhager. A week after shutting down Harley Reid, Windhager clamped down on Suns skipper Touk Miller. This was an old-fashioned hard tag. Wherever Miller went, Windhager followed, often with his arm across Miller. At times, it appeared they were conjoined at the hip, so close was Windhager. The tag had gone out of vogue in an era of team defence but teams can draw a massive advantage by shutting out the opposition’s best midfielder. The Suns missed Miller’s hard run to create overlap, particularly as they were well beaten at the source. Miller had more impact in the second half, his goal putting the Suns in front with seven minutes left, but finished with only 14 disposals to Windhager’s 15. You’d have to give the points to Windhager.

KEY STATS

That’s all for tonight everyone. Thanks so much for joining us.

Please come back tomorrow afternoon for our AFL Sunday live blog.

Bye for now.

Saints coach Ross Lyon spoke to the media post game.

It was an arm wrestle for most of the night but you managed to prevail against a team that has been in good form.

They certainly have a lot of respect in the competition, and we took a lot out of last week with our spirit and our competition. We did not think it should have been such an arm wrestle, we thought we were dominating entries, we had 56 per cent time in front half, and 56 entries to 45, not that it is always about that, because we have seen +22 in Melbourne and lost so we were frustrated but pleased with the system and how stoppage work which can be a weakness at times. Our inability to cash in was incredibly frustrating and it left the door ajar for them, we did not have to make many mistakes. It is a really frustrating scoreline, you think, got the ball back in the right area, had a lot of looks good not cash in. If I take it out of it, I was pleased with a lot of things we did. They are good all movement team. What surprised us is that they shifted the ball movement from their signature longer kicking from the get go a little, so we were not sure but we are happy to accept it. It could have gone either way in the end but I would have been devastated had we lost the game because I did not think we should have been in that position.

Paddy Dow take a mark.

Paddy Dow take a mark.Credit: AFL Photos

You mentioned the lack of reward, what contributed to that?

We had people at running and Max King one-on-ones, and he would miss them, or we missed easy gettable snaps, the third quarter, a lot of shallow entries. They are good team, and we hit a lot of marks and could not finish, so there is a lot of different pieces but are we frustrated? Yes, we are pleased we got the points and competed well and I think our fans are members would say that we had a big go, that is a lot to like but we have a lot to tidy up. We know for the year our forward 50, winning we get the ball back off teams, we are the lowest goals in the competition even though we get it back just as much, so decision and execution. We will work through that.

Damien Hardwick said it was terrible and horrific, the game of footy as a whole, how did you see it?

That is interesting, from an entry point of view, and they are pressure team, they like to pressure and play a front half game, and we felt like we played the front half game, and sometimes they can get messy. It is interesting, they had 19 backwards kicks, we had six, so we went forward and I thought we took it on, but the messy bit for us is leaving a stack of goals on the table. I would not say that is typical of the way they played, but 56 entries is pretty good for us. A lot of entries from possession but we could not finish. If it goes back to the middle, there is less buildup. I think some of a skill errors by us, we have to keep working and getting better, I won’t comment on what made it horrific, but they will be disappointed. I thought we were in control for most of the game, but we could not convert. That is what it felt like, if you go to the numbers, you shouldn’t do presses… 15-7, entries through corridor, and … they are a talented young team, and the competition does what is going on up there and all those young players that are developing, so we are pleased to get the win, two in a row and then we go to Brisbane and fight on again.

Suns coach Damien Hardwick spoke to the media post game.

It was a pretty dour defensive arm-wrestle?

Terrible game of footy. Horrific game of footy we were part of … But it is not a game I love, to be honest, it was 125 uncontested marks going backwards, sideways, we could not find a way through, and credit where it is due, they defended well and we knew it was coming but did not handle it well. It was a dour struggle.

Touk Miller of the Suns (L) congratulates David Swallow of the Suns (C) after he kicked a goal.

Touk Miller of the Suns (L) congratulates David Swallow of the Suns (C) after he kicked a goal.Credit: Getty Images

You say you played a part of it but the game that St Kilda restricted the way you wanted to play?

We knew it would be like this, we have to be better next time but it is frustrating to let a game slip, we should have, could have but did not win. We had our chances late but we have to be better this and more mature than this. I thought it was a poor start again, which is incredibly frustrating. And with a game that is relatively low scoring, it is always a challenge. It is always hard to score against that type of team and we did not do it well enough.

In the big picture, you would have liked the away win but also the logjam of teams?

We were a chance to take a step forward and did not deliver and a couple of sides will be in the same boat. It is part of our journey, we are 12 games in or whatever, it is one I walk away from is an opportunity to let slip and that is frustrating. The fans will be frustrated, I know I am frustrated and our players are incredibly frustrated as well. Credit where credit is due, the Saints strangled us, and they did a good job and got the Jane — got the game on their terms, that is what Ross does really well.

That free kick at the end against Mac Andrew?

Clearly in my view it was a free kick that was unwarranted but those guys are battling all day, I just think the umpire calls it, that is his job.I lack a feel for the game, the scores are at a premium?You are asking the wrong person, I ask my lads to do a number of things right and I will at the umpires take care of that.

What do you say to Mac after that?

He was outstanding tonight, he nearly helped us win the game late, you write the bunsen get he will get better, but when two guys are going toe-to-toe, one describing, the other is grading, which way did you go? Is probably looking at one person.

Do you coach him to do the same thing again in those scenarios?

He defends well, and there will be contact and incidental contact from time to time, but it is a challenge, the game is tough but as long as they are consistent, that is all we ask for.

Two games in a row on the road lost, do you feel like you will tread water until you get the monkey off the back?

I have only been here a short period of time and there are things we are working on on one of those is our away record which is not great. I have been pleased we have not lost a game at home, and we get another opportunity in three weeks to play again, but we have to make a strong understanding that we have to get better in this facet of the game. Part of that is on me as a coach and our coaches to make sure we get the best out of our players to make sure they come prepared to play, which did not start well tonight.

It’s the unofficial twin round in the AFL with Max King and Ben King facing off tonight and Ben McKay and Harry McKay set to face off in the Essendon and Carlton game on Sunday.

Max King of the Saints and bother Ben King of the Suns shake hands.

Max King of the Saints and bother Ben King of the Suns shake hands.Credit: AFL Photos

ST KILDA 7.9 (51) d GOLD COAST 7.6 (48)

Matt Rowell of the Suns (L) is challenged by Hunter Clark of the Saints.

Matt Rowell of the Suns (L) is challenged by Hunter Clark of the Saints.Credit: Getty Images

KEY POINTS

WORST GAME OF THE YEAR
There was a game in the 1990s when then Western Bulldogs coach Terry Wallace blew up at a journalist who had cheekily suggested they were playing so poorly the league would need to lock the gates to keep the fans in. The same line could have been used tonight. One of the worst games of the season was saved only by its closeness – because the Saints could not turn their domination in the first half into a lead of any significance. At half-time, the Saints were +21 for contested possession, five ahead in clearance and had seven more entries inside 50, but their advantage was just 14 points. Many will pin this on Ross Lyon’s defensive style, but you have to doubt whether he would have wanted his men to move the ball in such a sloppy manner. Too often, the Saints pulled the trigger on their inside-50 kick from too far out, resulting in shallow entries in less threatening areas which also denied them repeat entries to keep the ball locked near goal. Instructively, one of their best forays forward produced the match-winning goal from an off-the-ball free kick. A short kick which found Tim Membrey leading into space in the middle created panic in the Suns backline, pressuring Mac Andrew to hold Max King. King, who can be shaky near goal, converted from 20 metres out. Many in the partisan but small crowd of 17,902 would have been glad they came, but there’d be many more at home even happier to have given this one a miss.

WHAT THIS GAME MEANS
The Saints’ three-point win keeps their finals flame flickering, two games and significant percentage out of the eight with 10 games to play. They will have to play a lot better to threaten but this, and the narrow victory against West Coast, will give them belief they can make a run in the second half of the year. Their injury list has also dwindled in recent weeks. The most pleasing aspect of St Kilda’s performance was their work at the contest, winning clearances by 10 and the contested ball by 20, against a Gold Coast team that views this area as one of their strengths. Their defence, missing Dougal Howard from the opening minutes, also stood up, particularly in the last quarter when the Suns made a belated charge. Jack Sinclair’s kick for touch from deep in defence in the closing seconds was, to borrow commentary great Dennis Cometti’s phrase, centimetre perfect. As for Gold Coast, this was another wasted opportunity. A win would have had them in the firing line for the top four, now they will be out of the eight by the end of the round. Rarely will they get a better opportunity to win on the road. Their record away in the past two seasons now stands at a dismal 2-15.

IS WINDHAGER ROSS’S STEVIE BAKER II?
Steven Baker used to drive opposition stars batty with his uncompromising style. Ross Lyon may have found another tagger for his second coming to Moorabbin in Marcus Windhager. A week after shutting down Harley Reid, Windhager clamped down on Suns skipper Touk Miller. This was an old-fashioned hard tag. Wherever Miller went, Windhager followed, often with his arm across Miller. At times, it appeared they were conjoined at the hip, so close was Windhager. The tag had gone out of vogue in an era of team defence but teams can draw a massive advantage by shutting out the opposition’s best midfielder. The Suns missed Miller’s hard run to create overlap, particularly as they were well beaten at the source. Miller had more impact in the second half, his goal putting the Suns in front with seven minutes left, but finished with only 14 disposals to Windhager’s 15. You’d have to give the points to Windhager.

KEY STATS

Saints captain Jack Steele said Marcus Windhager’s tagging job on Touk Miller went a long way to securing tonight’s win over the Gold Coast.

“It was a massive goal, it was a big part of our game plan especially with Touk Miller, so it went a long way to win the game,” Steele told Channel Seven.

“He is a pretty tough-minded man but he submits himself completely to the team, so is happy to do it and he did a great job.

“They were getting into him at times but he stuck to his task.”

The Suns got the ball to their goal square with a minute to go but the Saints found a way to get it out.

The Saints have got up in a horrible game.

Ross Lyon’s men have the four points but did anyone really win in such a cynical, eye-sore of a game?

An umpire has called Mac Andrew for holding Max King while the two players were grappling with each other off the ball.

The video shows they were both holding each other, while 25m from goal.

King converted the goal and the Saints are back in front.

“He’s doing it to me,” Andrew exclaimed to the umpire.

It looked a grossly unfair decision given how close this game is.

Saints 51, Suns 48 with two mins to go.

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