Richmond’s premiership credentials have been rocked by a shock 40-point defeat to St Kilda at the MCG on Friday night, 9.8 (62) to 2.10 (22), and a knee injury to full-back Noah Balta.
Fresh from a week off, the Tigers were beaten at their own game by the Saints who came well prepared and desperate to win. Their pressure was elite and they dominated at the clearances thanks to first use from ruckmen Paddy Ryder and Rowan Marshall.
The Tigers were at the uncharacteristic worst, dropping marks and missing targets by hand and foot they would otherwise nail. Their score of 2.10 (22) was their lowest since being kept goalless in a match in 1961.
The incident which led to Balta’s knee injury was symptomatic of their night. Chasing a loose ball in defence, Balta fumbled the ball as Saints closed in before he copped knee-on-knee contact and was left clutching at his leg just before three-quarter time. While his ability to hobble off the ground relatively unassisted was a positive, he was subbed out of the game at the final change.
Noah Balta lays injured on the turf.Credit:Getty Images
At three-quarter time, the Tigers trailed by six goals despite owning the uncontested possession count by plus-45. The Saints allowed the Tigers to amass uncontested marks out wide, but denied them the time and space to get easy looks going inside 50. As a result, Jack Riewoldt, debutant Samson Ryan and rotating rucks Callum Coleman-Jones and Mabior Chol were denied easy access to the footy in attack. Ryan went without a disposal, recording just one hit out and one free kick against.
In fact, the selection of three of 200cm-plus drew criticism from AFL great and 3AW commentator Matthew Lloyd, who questioned why the Tigers would go into the match so tall when the conditions were so dreary. Riewoldt and Coleman-Jones took five marks each but neither kicked a goal.
Hardwick said during the week the Tigers believe the two-pronged ruck attack with two key forwards is the way they want to structure up. Tom Lynch, who is still a few weeks away from returning from knee surgery, will be a much-welcomed inclusion when he’s ready to play.
Luke Dunstan, in his 109th game for the Saints, produced arguably the best game of his career, racking up 32 disposals, 11 clearances and a brilliant forward-50 stoppage goal. Brad Crouch and Jack Steele, with 25 disposals each, played supporting roles as the Saints smashed the Tigers in clearances, 42-23.
Dougal Howard, with 21 disposals and nine marks, was also outstanding in defence, while Ryder was arguably best afield with 28 hitouts and seven marks.
Dustin Martin had moments of brilliance for the Tigers, and kicked their first goal of the match 10 minutes in the second term, but was relatively well held by Jimmy Webster. Few Tigers had an impact, with Nick Vlaustin perhaps their most consistent over the four quarters with 24 disposals and eight marks across defence.
Daniel McKenzie had a break-out game in front of goal for the Saints, kicking two majors, while Jack Higgins and Max King put any goalkicking yips behind them with three majors between them.
While finals still looks a stretch for St Kilda, they moved to 6-8 and within one match of the eighth-placed Tigers at 7-7 and found a game style that will see them win more games in the second half of the year. Repeating the performance weekly, however, remains their challenge going forward.
They next face Collingwood, with that match still to be scheduled for next weekend.
Just over 14,000 attended the match, well short of the 25,000 cap on Victorian crowds. The Tigers crowd was vocal in the first half, but more so in frustration at their error-ridden side. With games against Gold Coast and Collingwood in the next fortnight, their finals aspirations hang in the balance.
BEST: St Kilda: Paddy Ryder, Luke Dunstan, Dougal Howard, Jack Steele, Brad Crouch. Richmond: Nick Vlaustin, Jayden Short, Dustin Martin
Most Viewed in Sport
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article