Saints hold on for gripping comeback win over Tigers

Roger Vaughan |

St Kilda have gritted out a tough seven-point win over Richmond at Norwood Oval.
St Kilda have gritted out a tough seven-point win over Richmond at Norwood Oval.

Ross Lyon’s joke about aliens was as good an explanation as anything else for what happened at half time on Sunday at Norwood Oval.

After a woeful first half, St Kilda rebounded brilliantly to beat Richmond by seven points in their AFL Gather Round clash.

They were goalless until late in the second term, then piled on six in the third term and hung on grimly late on for the 9.13 (67) to 9.6 (60) win.

Post-match, Lyon praised his assistant coaches and players for orchestrating the comeback at the main break.

Then, when asked what the atmosphere in their rooms was like at halftime, Lyon deadpanned: “We actually landed a UFO in and walked out 22 aliens who put on the St Kilda jumper.

“We flipped the team. No – it’s about the coaching panel.

“Fortunately, it got glued together OK and we get a result.”

Mitch Owens of St Kilda is put under pressure by two Richmond rivals.
The Saints and the Tigers put on an absorbingly tight spectacle at Norwood Oval. (Michael Errey/AAP PHOTOS)

The Saints’ pressure went through the roof in the third term as they monstered Richmond with 19 inside 50s to nine.

Captain Jack Steele led the charge in the midfield while Rowan Marshall fought an absorbing ruck duel with Tigers captain Toby Nankervis.

Tigers star Shai Bolton lit up the confines of Norwood Oval and was best afield with four goals, but Saints defender Liam Stocker went to him late and curbed his influence.

Likewise, Dustin Martin was outstanding early, only for the Saints to lift their work and match him in the midfield.

Lyon spoke just as glowingly of Richmond as he did of his own players post-match.

“He (Bolton) was just electric, wasn’t he? He’s a pretty special player,” the Saints coach said.

“Dusty … he’s the best player in the last 10 years or whatever. You reckon we might pay him some attention?

“So we just closed him out a bit.

“They took six forward-50 marks in the first quarter and four for the rest of the game? Is that our strategy changing? No – I think it’s application to task.”

Dustin Martin.
Martin was back in damaging form until the Saints curbed his influence in the second half. (Michael Errey/AAP PHOTOS)

Richmond had two snaps at goal in the final 60 seconds, but they were ruled touched off the boot on video review.

Tigers coach Adem Yze had no issue with the two reviews, saying they should have nailed chances earlier in the game.

Richmond brought on sub Kane McAuliffe for his AFL debut in the third term, to the roar of family and friends in the stands.

He limped off soon after with an ankle injury, but the Adelaide local returned and played out the game.

The undermanned Tigers were expected to struggle after losing Tom Lynch and Noah Balta to injury, plus Liam Baker to suspension.

But after their major upset win over Sydney last week, they were inspired and made a red-hot start.

Richmond had a 28-point lead in the second term, but could not contain the Saints when they rallied in the third term.

“I feel for our players. I can’t doubt our effort and our attitude,” Yze said.

“They try hard. It was just execution – the difference with the polish.”