St Kilda have played spoilers to Lance Franklin’s milestone night recording a controversial yet crucial 14 point win to solidify their spot in the top eight.
Recording their first win at the SCG since 2009, the Saints came from behind on multiple occasions in the second half thanks to a pair of contentious 50m penalties at the start of the final quarter to wrestle back a slender lead at the start of the final quarter on a low scoring night. Holding on to win 12.8 (80) to 90.12 (74).
The game served as a double celebration for Franklin who celebrated his 350th game and kicked a goal to move into fourth place outright on the all time leading goalscorers list in VFL/AFL history.
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Max King kicked three goals to lead the Saints inside 50 while he was ably supported by Dan Butler and Mitchito Owens who kicked two goals each in a high-pressure display in the front half.
Although Butler faces a nervous wait following a contentious dangerous tackle on Swan Nick Blakey in the third quarter which saw the young Swan get subbed out of the game after a HIA.
QUARTER-BY-QUARTER MATCH REPORT
There were no late changes for either side, with Joel Amartey (Swans) and Cooper Sharman (Saints) named the starting subs.
After a scrappy opening few minutes from both sides, the Saints drew first blood through rising rookie Mattaes Phillipou. The youngster staying on the ground at the back of the pack and dribbling through the opening goal.
It was a dour and error riddled opening quarter with both sides plagued by poor kicking, failing to conjure meaningful chains without error.
“It has been a grind so far” Channel 7 commentator Hamish McLachlan remarked.
“The skill level is just abysmal” AFL Nation broadcaster Gerard Whateley said
“The way that both teams are defending, there isn’t a lot of time and space out there” Daisy Pearce said when asked if the errors were a result of the pressure being applied.
The quarter time siren sounded with the Saints ahead 1.1 (7) to Swans 0.0 (0).
It was the lowest quarter opening quarter since 1999 and the first time the Swans were held scoreless in the opening quarter since 1903.
In contrast to the slow scoring opening, The Saints hit the scoreboard early in the second quarter after Max King converted a set shot goal after winning a holding the man free kick.
The Swans finally kicked their first goal of the game at the nine minute mark of the second quarter when Tom Papley set sail from beyond 50 on the arc to get the Swans on the board.
“That’s’ what a bit of speed on the ball can do” Former Melbourne AFLW Premiership captain said on Channel 7.
“It doesn’t have to be perfect but just stress the defence a little bit” she added pointing too how two Saints defenders were drawn to Franklin opening up the space for Papley to swoop on the loose ball.
The Sydney crows soon sprung to life as the Swans started to get going as the milestone man Franklin made his presence felt and added himself to the scoresheet with a another big milestone.
Converting his 1,057th career goal, Franklin moved to outright fourth on the all time list of goalkickers in VFL/AFL history.
“The Sydney Cricket Ground stand as one and cheer their hero” Hamish McLachlan said.
“Welcome to the party Buddy” McLachlan added as his teammates ran from everywhere to celebrate with him.
Franklin kicked his second five minutes later as the Swans turned a 13 point deficit into a 20 point lead as halftime neared.
But the Saints hit back with back to back goals through Anthony Caminiti and Dan Butler to trim the margin back to eight points.
The Swans took a nine-point lead into the main break, leading 5.4 (34) to 4.2 (26).
“It’s not quite the contest I was hoping for but what we have got is a gripping clash between two teams desperate for four points because it’s going to serve them really well as we get deep into the second half of the season” Hawthorn legend Jason Dunstall said on Fox Footy.
“The game is up for grabs at half time,” he added.
Max King once again got the Saints off to a fast start in the third quarter, holding onto a mark in the goalsquare to convert his second goal for the game.
The Saints hit the front again courtesy of Mitchito Owens, receiving the handpass from Max King from a congested pack before snapping on his left foot.
But Erroll Gulden broke a run of four straight St Kilda goals to put the Swans back in front as the sides traded the lead.
The Swans peppered the goals but failed to make them properly count with a run of behinds. St Kilda struck a late blow just before three quarter time when Dan Butler found space inside 50 to present to a quick kick from Jack Higgins.
He converted his second goal to trim the margin to one straight kick at the final change. The Swans leading 7.10 (52) to 7.4 (46).
The Saints were dealt a blow at the start of the final quarter when spearhead Max King came to the bench after heavy contact to the turf following a collision in the opening stages of the fourth quarter. He was assessed on the bench before returning to the field shortly after.
Meanwhile, The Saints hit the lead once again after a pair of standing the mark 50m penalties and goals to Mitchito Owens and Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera to land the first blows of the final quarter.
The Swans continued to pepper away at the goals with Amartey and Gulden missing shots either side of the goals and draw the margin back to a straight kick. Before Braeden Campbell found a straight kick to level the scores once again.
The Saints hit back through Jack Higgins to kick the Saints clear once again, cleverly cleaning up at the back of a pack to kick the Saints seven points clear with eight minutes to play.
Tactical sub Cooper Sharman, who was activated in the final quarter for Anthony Caminiti shook Swans skipper Dane Rampe in a one-on-one marking contest in front of goal and converted to make the game safe for the Saints.
Max King kicked his third goal in the final minute to put the exclamation point on the win for the Saints as they recorded an important 14 point win. 12.8 (80) to 9.12 (66).
“It’s a win that further legitimises the Saints of 2023” Channel 7 commentator Alister Nicholson said as the final siren rung our at the SCG.
THE 3-2-1 …
3. 14-YEAR HOODOO OVER AS SAINTS REGAIN EARLY-SEASON BITE
This could be a season-defining win for the Saints.
On a night where St Kilda had a golden chance to prove it’s a more hardened and reliable team than last year and could carry its early season momentum into the back-half of its campaign, Ross Lyon’s men delivered.
The Saints on Thursday night spoiled Lance Franklin’s 350-game milestone, pulling away late to defeat Sydney by 14 points at the SCG – their first win at the venue since 2009.
The Saints enjoyed a red-hot start to 2023, winning four of their first five to mark Lyon’s return with a bang. It’s been a stop-start campaign since, so they needed to beat the Swans.
But they played like a side desperate to avoid another mid-season fadeout that saw them miss finals last year.
It was far from perfect, especially early in the second quarter when Sydney blitzed St Kilda with five goals to three. The Swans, too, came into the match ranked 15th for contested possession differential and 18th for clearance differential.
But they thumped the Saints in both counts on Friday night: +15 contested possessions and +10 clearances.
“They’re not tough enough, the Saints. It’s as simple as that,” dual premiership Kangaroo David King told Fox Footy.
Buddy climbs All-time goal scorers list | 00:35
“They’re getting smashed at clearance, they’re getting smashed when the ball flows from clearance.”
King added the Saints had some “players that haven’t put the armour on tonight and got involved”, singling out Seb Ross, Jade Gresham and Jack Steele.
But the Saints flipped the script in the second half, with Steele, Brad Crouch and Jack Sinclair lifting their outputs and Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera producing a career-best performance to inspire their team to victory.
St Kilda sealed the win with a professional fourth term, booting 5.4 to 2.2 and getting the edge in clearances, contested possessions and inside 50s.
Saints champion Leigh Montagna said it was a “sensational” performance by the Saints, who laid a whopping 94 tackles to Sydney’s 60.
“It looked like the St Kilda of the first month of the season,” Montagna told Fox Footy post-game.
“Their ability to restrict the opposition from scoring with their team defence, their pressure, their will and their desire – it wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t always effective, but I loved how every one of them contributed. That’s what St Kilda have relied on this year.”
A loss could’ve seen St Kilda drop to the bottom of the eight by round’s end. Instead, the win keeps the Saints in touch with the top four.
2. ‘ZERO INTEREST IN THEATRE’: STINGY SAINT SPOILS BUDDY PARTY
A few minutes into Thursday night’s game and you knew milestone man Lance Franklin was in for a tough night.
“It’s early doors, but it looks like Callum Wilkie has zero interest in theatre,” Channel 7’s Daisy Pearce said.
“He’s wearing him (Franklin) like a glove at the moment.”
And Saints defender Wilkie didn’t relent for the entire night, restricting Franklin to two goals from six disposals in the latter’s 350th AFL match.
But while Wilkie was stingy, he was just as effective on counter-attack for St Kilda, finishing with 23 disposals, 10 intercepts, eight marks and eight rebound 50s.
It was a disappointing finish to a special occasion for Franklin, who also moved into outright fourth spot on the all-time VFL/AFL goalkicking list.
Buddy emotional post jersey presentation | 01:50
“He looked a little nervous early,” Hawthorn legend Jason Dunstall told Fox Footy.
“He had one that bounced off his chest. It is such a big occasion and he’s trying to desperately impose himself.
“But normal service soon resumed and he got himself involved. You could see he visibly relaxed because he started to have an impact. He kicked a couple of goals and he started to drive the crowd and he’s deep into the game.”
A roar went up every time Franklin touched the ball and he delivered the elusive 1058th goal of his career 15 minutes into the second term after taking a strong contested mark.
Franklin walked back and split the posts from 45 metres out on a slight angle to send the home crowd into raptures.
1. A BEGINNING TO FORGET
The opening quarter was, well, interesting. Despite both teams having 13 inside 50s each, St Kilda led Sydney 1.1 (7) to 0.0 (0) at quarter-time as they struggled for fluency with ball in-hand.
Outside of 2020 – which has the shortened quarters during the Covid era – it was the lowest combined quarter-time score since 1999.
More remarkably, it was Sydney’s lowest quarter-time score in a match against St Kilda since Round 7, 1903.
It was also the Swans’ first scoreless opening quarter since Round 21, 1997.
Sydney coach John Longmire was fuming in his box and was shown screaming into the phone on several occasions.
“There is no amount of polishing that can salvage this first quarter,” Fox Footy’s Jason Dunstall said.
“I don’t know if it’s the slippery conditions causing this. Is it the big occasion and players aren’t handling it? It’s just error after error after error.
“The one good thing is we’re going to reset and start all again when the second quarter comes out. There’s only one goal the difference, so no damage has been done at this stage. But it’s just been a horror watch. They just keep kicking it to each other and making mistakes.”
Dunstall pointed to a passage of play from the first quarter that summed up both teams’ struggles.
Swans stat Chad Warner marked inside 50, but his kick just sailed over the top of teammate Sam Wicks. But St Kilda’s Ryan Byrnes immediately turned the ball over by foot to Swan Ryan Clarke, who marked at half-forward – and then had his kick smothered by Dan Butler.
The ball spilt free to St Kilda’s Jimmy Webster, but his handball was intercepted outside 50 by Swan James Rowbottom, who found teammate Will Hayward by hand.
But Hayward’s centring kick was a shank, putting it down the throat of Saints full-back Dougal Howard just outside the defensive goalsquare.
“I think both coaches would’ve just got their troops together and said: ‘Hey, let’s keep our heads, think about what we’re doing with the footy and hit our targets,’” Dunstall said.
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— with NCA NewsWire