Gritty St Kilda has overcome the loss of captain Nick Riewoldt to a torn hamstring to subdue Collingwood by 28 points in a feisty AFL clash-of-the-round at Docklands stadium.
With the two teams never separated by anything more than four points at any of the changes, the Saints beat the odds without their key forward target to break free in the last quarter and prevail 10.9 (69) to 4.17 (41) in a low-scoring affair.
Already without the suspended Justin Koschitzke, last year’s grand finalists suffered a shattering blow when Riewoldt injured his right hamstring late in the first half and immediately limped down the tunnel to sit out the rest of the match.
The problems continued to pile up for coach Ross Lyon when tenacious defender Sam Fisher was knocked out in a contest with Leon Davis in the third quarter, but the Saints somehow conspired to keep the Magpies goalless in the second half and retain their unbeaten start to the season.
“The way the boys fought it out there in the last quarter, we were down there to 20 men I think for the majority of the second half,” said Riewoldt, who had already injured his left ankle earlier in the second term but returned to the field after receiving treatment.
“[It was a] really gutsy win from the boys tonight.”
Riewoldt is set to have a scan on Saturday, with Lyon unsure on how serious the injury is.
“We’re going to investigate it,” Lyon said.
“Do you think if I thought it was off the bone I’d have half a smile on my face now? He’s a special player, all the St Kilda people don’t want to see him get hurt.”
St Kilda’s midfield took control in the final quarter when the match was there for the taking, denying Collingwood possession with Adam Schneider, Michael Gardiner, James Gwilt and Leigh Montagna all capitalising.
Sam Gilbert had a stunning 32 disposals and 20 marks, while a concussed Fisher remarkably returned to the field in the final term to finish with 28 touches and 10 marks.
Brendon Goddard and Montagna were the only multiple goalkickers for the Saints in what was quite simply a well-rounded team performance.
“It was a great effort for the boys, Rooey went down and we had a couple of injuries, but the way we fought it out was a testament to all the work we put in and it’s one of the best wins I’ve had,” said midfield general Lenny Hayes, who played out the encounter with a bandaged face after breaking his nose in a heavy clash with team-mate Steven King.
Lyon added: “I thought it was a magnificent effort. Everything was thrown at us and we responded in kind, like good teams do.”
Dayne Beams’ goal at the end of the second quarter to put Collingwood up 32-29 at half-time was unbelievably the Pies’ last major contribution to the scoreboard, as their evening unravelled in a glut of poor goalkicking and wasted opportunities.
“We were just not good enough,” Magpies coach Mick Malthouse said.
“It’s the old cliche, a lot of things might change in life but certainly one doesn’t – bad kicking is bad footy, if you don’t kick enough goals, you don’t win games of football.”
Collingwood had begun so impressively, showing marked aggression before the bounce and laying down a marker with three goals to two in a second quarter which saw the lead change on no less than five occasions.
Riewoldt’s injury and Beams’ goal straight after appeared to spell disaster for the Saints, but they showed they are no one-man band in kicking six more goals in his absence while holding the Pies to a disastrous nine behinds.
Jason Gram’s goal nine minutes into the third term was St Kilda’s second of the period and the ninth and final lead change of the encounter as Collingwood surrendered somewhat meekly thereafter in what was a disappointing first outing for Luke Ball against his former club.
Ball did finish as the Pies’ leading possession-getter with 28, while also racking up eight marks.
Saints: 10.9 (69) – B Goddard 2, L Montagna 2, A Schneider, J Gram, J Gwilt, M Gardiner, N Dal Santo, S Milne
Magpies: 4.17 (41) – A Didak, D Beams, S Sidebottom, T Cloke