A Game of Two Halves, Both of Them Dour

Footy is more a game of four quarters than it is a game of two halves. But tonight, it was much a game of two halves, keeping in theme with the World Cup that is currently taking place. In the wet, dour struggle that was tonight’s game, Geelong owned the first half while a spirited St.Kilda side came marching out of race at the major break and held the Cats goalless in a half for the first time in nine years. The Saints’ midfield and backline were the stand outs. Their forward line still has some constructing to undertake with the return of their captain, but the work from Hayes, Montagna, Goddard and Dal Santo at the stoppages was second to none.

With a slightly-less than anticipated crowd watching on, the game got underway under the Friday night lights, live on the television. The rain drizzled down as the Saints dominated the ball early on. Defying the tough conditions, Gary Ablett snapped a clean goal into the Punt Rd End fence. The Cats looked to have their grasp on the game, but a fifty against Selwood (of all people) gifted Schneider a goal to put the Saints on the board. From that point on in the first quarter the game was surprisingly a high possession game, attempted to be controlled by St.Kilda in their back half with their trademark style. Gilbert had six marks in the first quarter alone. With Ling going to Hayes, Dal Santo dominated to a certain extent early on. Young Jack Steven looked lively, but his two early shots both were off target. Schneider added a second and Ling literally stole the ball off Dal Santo in the pocket and nailed Geelong’s second to the end where numerous kicks dropped short at stages of the match.

After the tight first quarter, it wasn’t long before the game was wide open. Mooney again had the jitters in front of goal in his return match, but the three goals in a row from the Cats truly showed their stance on the competition. Enright to Stokes, from the muddy centre of the MCG. Goal. Stevie J, back on the field after his suspected hand injury. Goal (albeit an unfashionable one). And Joel Selwood, oh so many clearances is what is easily the second best game of his career, 12 in total for the night. The Saints got the margin back to within seven points after some Dal Santo magic, a clearance followed up with a goal, but some Ablett magic, a phrase that is used more often, gave the game its sixth goal in ten minutes. Milne missed a crucial snap, Mooney missed yet again and a couple of rushed behinds rounded out the quarter to give the Cats a 16-point lead, a lead which at that point seemed enough to hold a firm mantle on the contest.

The spirited Saints came out in the second half and took it to the reigning premiers. Podsiadly affected a fantastic smother on Gwilt, just about the only good thing he did for the night. The Saints were rebounding the ball at will. Steven Baker received a whack in the eye from Johnson, one that was reminiscent of Bear Grylls’ bee sting from Man V Wild. Jack Steven exploded in the third term. A goal from a fifty metre penalty (again), another goal, and a brilliant run on the run, dashing through traffic. All of a sudden, the Saints were in front, like what happened in the third quarter of last year’s Grand Final. Schneider snapped a high, high ball that squeezed home to add to the undisciplined Geelong side’s misery, and even Milne got into the action, after a quiet first three quarters. A clean scorecard was the reality for the Cats, who now looked completely lost on the MCG (apart from Selwood). Lenny Hayes was starring. 23 possessions, 12 tackles and six clearances up until three quarter time.

Geelong had their chances in the last quarter. But the Saints were more than content to slow down the game, playing kick to kick. Fisher to Gilbert. Gilbert to Montagna. Koschitzke had a run in the ruck, but he and the other three key forwards on the field had a negative influence on their team, it was a small man’s night. Schneider almost kicked his fifth, but neither team could add a goal. Geelong didn’t have one of their game breakers, if not their most important one, in Chapman. Mooney didn’t step up, not did Bartel or Ablett when needed. Darren Milburn and Josh Hunt were getting plenty of the ball in the back line, but weren’t making the right decisions. A near-goalless final term was the scenario, but a free kick was given away to Milne in the dying seconds resulted in the goal where there is that amazing crowd reaction. Siren.  The Saints had beaten the Cats, against the odds. They may top the ladder for the second consecutive year come finals.

After tonight’s loss, Geelong will re-group and most likely thrash North Melbourne at home. But questions linger: Is Cameron Mooney past his time, or is he just unfit? Like we have seen in recent weeks, is the dominance of the key forward no longer (apart from Jack Riewoldt of course)?

This match wasn’t quite as good as the Grand Final, but it was an entertaining contest and a historic victory for the St.Kilda Football Club.

St.Kilda 2.1 4.3 9.6 10.10 (70)

Geelong 2.2 6.7 6.7 6.10 (46)

Goals

St.Kilda: Schneider 4, Steven 3, Milne 2, Dal Santo.

Geelong: Ablett 2, Ling, Mackie, Stokes, S Johnson.

Best

St.Kilda: Hayes, Montagna, Dal Santo, Goddard, Schneider, Gilbert, Gwilt, Steven.

Geelong: Selwood, Enright, Ablett.

Umpires: Rosebury, Stevic, S Ryan.  Crowd: 58,208 at the MCG.

My Votes: 3. Joel Selwood (GEEL), 2. Lenny Hayes (STK), 1. Leigh Montagna (STK).

About Steve Healy

Steve Healy is an entity of a Melbourne supporter.

Comments

  1. Steve, re: Cam Mooney – I wouldn’t read too much into last night’s performance. What most of the TV audience would have missed was Jason Blake roughing him up and niggling him into frustration. He threw a great number of jumper punches before Mooney finally cracked and sent one into his jaw … and this was just the first quarter. It was stupid of Mooney to respond to Blake’s tactics, but this is Cam Mooney, it was always going to happen. The opposition know how to get under his skin.

    Mooney and Pods spent most of the night being embraced by the Saints’ defenders, whether the ball was coming in or not. Very much like what Collingwood do. And like with the Pies, the umpires (I promised not to get started on them, for my own sake as well as everyone else’s) were happy enough to let it slide. One more than one occasion, Pods was being pinned by three Saints defenders.

    The Saints played a good game last night. Yes, it was ugly. Yes, they were playing on the wrong side of the planet (fans in South Africa would have welcomed this game). But it was effective and it was the winning formula.

    As much as Saint Kilda won it, though, Geelong lost it. There is an obvious dissention in the ranks, and the coaching staff would do well to address that ASAP.

    And people can say what they like about the Saints missing Nick Riewoldt.

    Geelong were missing Ottens, Kelly and Chappy (amongst many, many others) who are arguably the most important players at Geelong, structurally. Rubbing salt into the wound, Geelong could well be without the likes of Mooney (susp.), Johnson (inj./susp.) and maybe even Scarlett next week.

    Dark times ahead? Or will we rally and collect ourselves?

  2. p.s. I think you underrated Milburn – it was his best game for the year (and with the start he had, that’s saying something). And Doms belonged in Geelong’s best. He completely outclassed Kosi. They were our best defenders by a mile last night, and deservedly so.

  3. Steve Healy says:

    You make some good points Susie.

    Yes I probably was a bit harsh on Milburn as he got plenty of the ball and rebounded out of defence well

  4. Hmm, I dunno, though. Things always look different on the TV as they do at the ground, and vice-versa. I wonder if may I am overrating his performance :-S

  5. Good report Steve. The Saints were simply too good on the night. The Cats just had one of those nights, and if you play off a bit against St Kilda they make you pay. Scarlett had the worst game I’ve seen him play for years – he’s way underdone, but will get better. We missed Chappy and Kelly, but the Saints look to me like a team on a mission. They’ll be hard to beat this year.

  6. Stainless says:

    I was at the game and thought it was a pretty compelling contest played in similar conditions to the Grand Final. There was plenty of intensity although understandably not the same recklessness of that memorable contest.

    The Saints really lifted several notches after half time and thoroughly deserved their win. Most pleasing for them would have been that it wasn’t just the usual suspects who performed well. Young Steven was a tremendous surprise packet. Gwilt was excellent and Schneider’s four goals marked a night that would have exorcised a few demons after that disappointing Grand Final.

    I’m in two minds as to what to make of the result. Granted, Geelong was well down on manpower and had clearly less incentive than St Kilda to put in a big game at this time of year. But a scoreless quarter and a goalless half is a real worry, as were the frequent displays of petulance from a number of Geelong players towards umpires, opponents and team mates. I don’t want to overstate it, but they were reminiscent of the Brisbane Lions in 2004 – still a good team, but reacting poorly when things went against them. That nasty mix of arrogance and complacency can strike quickly. For Geelong’s sake, I hope this game was just one of those bad days.

  7. Steve Healy says:

    Thanks for the comments.

    It’ll be interesting to see if Geelong can beat Hawthorn in Round 15

  8. It’ll be interesting to see if Geelong can beat North Melbourne next week.

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