The Dees looked to have things in hand early, but the Saints powered back into the game, and once again Melbourne’s fragility was on full display.

The Saints kicked 12 goals after quarter time to reel in the Saints and post a win that keeps the faintest of finals hopes alive. For Brett Ratten, the win acts as another tick in his quest for a return to senior coaching on a permanent basis. For Melbourne, a decision looms as to what to do with a number two draft pick – invest in the future, or re-tool with a star via trade and write this season off, hoping it is an anomaly?

Let’s take a look at some of the things of significance from the game

FIVE IMPORTANT PLAYERS

Christian Petrecca has been having an up and down season, but in this game he started brilliantly. Within the first five minutes, he had five disposals, a goal assist and a major himself. Over the course of the match, he continually fought and put his body on the line and was silky in delivering the ball forward, roving the loose ball and finished with three straight. He knew what to do at critical times and read the ball well off hands, which led to a soccer goal from a pack in the third quarter.

Josh Bruce is an integral part to St Kilda’s forward setup. He gives himself plenty of space to run into. The kicks inside 50 are weighted so carefully for the marking target of Bruce and he rewarded his team’s hard work with a maximum score on four occasions. Bruce’s ability to take the ball out of the ruck was great and the way he registered a goal from doing just that was very much like what Tom Hawkins has been doing for Geelong, using his power and bulk to get prime position. As he took possession, he was running was into three Demons players, but he was able to turn on his heels away from the awaiting opposition to snap for the Saints second goal.

Rowan Marshall had a great battle with Max Gawn and while Gawn had the advantage in the hit outs column, Marshall held up very well against one of the best rucks in the competition. Continuously getting into the contest, Marshall gave second efforts and had 10 contested possessions amongst his 16. He had an equal game-high eight clearances, which for a ruckman is an incredible feat. Wea sked last week whether Marshall was the third best ruck in the competition. Some people scoffed at the thought. If not already, it won’t be long until they reconsider.

From the outset, Seb Ross was primed for a big game. He kicked the Saints first goal after gathering a ball that stayed in close to the boundary.  A midfielder who collects 31 disposals and kicks a couple of snags is a delight to watch, but Ross kept the pressure up all game with nine tackles and 19 pressure acts.

Nick Hind is an exciting prospect for the Saints and he demonstrated how good he could be today. On multiple occasions he was worrying the Demons with his pace, allowing him to sidestep and importantly, remain composed to look for the right targets. He kicked a very important goal in the final term after running back with the flight of the ball, which could’ve been the sealer. He’s just one of a number of young Saints who are getting better with playing at AFL level, with Ben Long to keep an eye on due to his workrate and ability to split the defence.

FIVE IMPORTANT PLAYS

Seb Ross did wonderfully to score the Saints first goal. He allowed the pack go up and when Jake Lever’s attempted spoil over the boundary line didn’t make the distance, he was there to pounce on the loose ball,  gather and snap truly. A defender of Jake Lever’s calibre should be making sure of that spoil. It’s the old rule – if you’re going to help in a contest, you’ve got to completely kill it. his spoil. Whilst effective, left the door ajar.

Melbourne finally kicked a goal in the second quarter through Corey Wagner after multiple attempts. St Kilda should’ve really held it in their forward half but a series of desperate smothers led to the Demons getting out the back. Carlisle dropped an easy overhead mark he had both hands on, and then carnage from both teams frantically led to the goal.

Any play involving Tim Membrey in the third quarter was important as the Saint booted three, all from the goal line, but it didn’t mean he didn’t work for them. Before he even got the kick through the big sticks, he was doing the grunt work at the contest before running forward. A strong mark too, outmarking a monster like Gawn on the goal line, then snapping a goal was a beautiful sight.

Christian Salem should’ve backed himself to intercept a defensive-bound ball in a one-on-one against Ben Long, but panicked, looking around to locate his opponent instead of focusing on the ball. Salem gave up his front position, Long marked in front of his direct opponent and went back to kick a goal that put the Saints in the lead for the first time.

Bailey Fritsch’s determination and relentlessness, refusing to give up when he fumbled close to the goal line was inspirational, tapping it to his teammate and receiving the handball back to kick it through the big sticks. It was one of many impressive things he did during the game as part of kicking two goals and collecting 14 touches. Not exactly on par with his efforts against the Eagles, but he is really showing plenty.

FIVE IMPORTANT DECISIONS

Well done to the umpire for calling play-on against James Harmes lining up for goal. On commentary, Richo said it was 37 seconds before the umpire made his call, which is seven seconds longer than a player is allowed. Players are not silly – they know how long they’ve been holding the footy for. The whistle blew and Harmes was stuck. No score was recorded for the Demons as a result of what was either a brain-fade or a case of a player outsmarting himself.

Jake Carlisle gave away a stupid free kick after Petracca’s late third quarter goal, which allowed Harrison Petty to give the Demons the lead. It certainly was high contact, but Petty definitely milked the severity of the exchange, and some would call that free kick soft. Regardless, Carlisle is a hot-tempered man and it was silly action with an umpire right in front of you. It may all just be niggles to some, but in recent weeks, opponents have acted as though they think they can get to Carlisle, and this proves that they have been correct.

The umps were under the microscope again after a very short kick to Gawn was paid a mark. To me, it didn’t look like the ball travelled 15m. The ball was released from the 50m line with the commentators saying Gawn marked it 40m out, you don’t have to have completed advanced maths to work out it was a pretty short kick. I fear Gawn, who looked to play on immediately, thought the same.

Hunter Clark had the chance to put the Saints in front going into the main break. He received a free kick for contact in a marking contest but he was still fumbling it and may have dropped it had there been no touch on him. He missed the shot at goal, which was probably poetic justice.

Overall, accuracy hurt both teams in the latter stages of the game. Melbourne started well in front of goal however when the lead was there to be taken or extended, no one could capitalise. St Kilda hit the post three times as rushed kicks were prevalent. With the lead changing on 11 occassions throughout the match (and nine times in the second half), it was important for both the Saints and Demons to be thorough with their kicking towards goal from general play, on the run. On turnovers, neither team punished the other such as when Nick Coffield coff-ed up the ball in the backline but after some fumbling from Melbourne, they allowed the Saints off the hook with just a behind. Scores from turnovers win games, and let offs like that lose them.

FIVE IMPORTANT OUTTAKES

A concerning statistic for the Demons comes from the Saints punishing them with scores from turnovers. St Kilda kicked 85 (of their 104) points from turnovers, which is damning for the Dees. St Kilda’s run and speed to enter deep into their forward 50 and capitalise was a big factor in their win. It was also an indictment of the one-way running of the Dees – a problem that has plagued them all year. Melbourne allowed the Saints to mark unopposed on multiple occasions in the second quarter which resulted in goals to Tim Membrey and Doulton Langlands.

Melbourne were very good early at delivering the ball inside 50 early, contributing to their three-goal lead before the Saints even had a score on the board. The efficiency they displayed (three goals from three entries) was something we’re not used to seeing, so that was pleasing. If it wasn’t put right onto the chest of a teammate, the Demon forwards looked on at ground level too, and Petracca’s goal was testament to that..

Jake Lever worked his way into the contest gradually, even though he was often outmuscled by his opponent. When the Saints launched a long ball inside 50, Lever was often under every drop, and read the ball in flight very well, taking nine marks for the game and adding ten overall intercepts.

It was an enthralling ruck battle between Marshall and Gawn, and it finished pretty evenly. Marshall is enjoying some success in his now-29-game career and will very soon potentially become a top ruckman of the competition. Both rucks gave their rovers first use of the ball at different points, but Melbourne especially wrapped any and all St Kilda player up quickly to prevent clean possession. While in play though, St Kilda were great at using their hands to get out of a swarm of Melbourne players and start a break.

Turnovers were a massive concern for both teams throughout the match but especially in the second term. In the first seven minutes of the after the first break, there were 18 combined turnovers made, whereas in the entire 33 and a half minute first quarter, 29 turnovers were made. By the 14th minute, 29 second quarter turnovers were conceded. At the end of the second term, 51 turnovers were recorded in 194 disposals – that’s 3.8 disposals per turnover! The rate improved in the second half, but it’s very concerning for both teams as clean possession was hard to come by and avenues towards goal became less clear and pressure mounted everywhere.

And one more – why not? Jack Steele’s first half performance on Clayton Oliver was one for the books! Oliver rallied in the second half, but Steele’s attention to detail certainly limited the young Demon early in the game. At one point Oliver had recorded just one kick to go with seven handballs, and was under Steele pressure every time he touched it.