St Kilda effectively ended their final chances with a dismal performance as the Western Bulldogs rioted at Marvel Stadium to claim a 28-point win.
Embodying the Dogs revival on Friday night, Marcus Bontempelli overcame a bit of quiet form in recent weeks to take top honors at three-quarters time.
The captain also hit the final nail in the coffin to end St Kilda’s late attack with four goals.
Three quarters of the way into the game, Brett Ratten’s men were completely outplayed in scenes that will haunt Saints fans and be a bitter way to almost bow out of the final battle.
In the end, the 1950s interior was nearly identical (49-46 in favor of the Dogs) and so was the scoring (19-16), as the Saints showed some hearts late and even the supporters gave little hope on a massive comeback.
But it wasn’t to be.
There’s no doubt that if the Dogs can bring the intensity they had for much of the first half, they’d do well at the pointed end of the season.
However, it still seems incredibly unlikely that they will get there. The win is their ninth of the season, but as they will likely have to beat two from Fremantle, Geelong and Melbourne, it looks like they tried their best too late in the season.
But on the other hand, the Saints are also almost ready. Their percentage dropped to just 101.7 with the loss, and if Richmond win on Saturday, they will need to win two more games than they and Sydney to make it to the final.
With games against Geelong, Brisbane and Sydney on the horizon, that seems highly unlikely, and few would say the Saints deserve to play finals after the past two weeks.
There were many ways to summarize the clash, but SENs Gerard Whateley did well, saying: AFL Nation asked in the third term: “It is unforgivable (for St Kilda) to present in a game of this magnitude like this.”
“That’s way too easy…”
— Fox Footy (@FOXFOOTY) July 15, 2022
Fresh from taking 15 scoring shots in opening quarters on Friday night last week, the Dogs flipped the switch to take control early on.
To say Luke Beveridge’s side was in control would give too much credit to the Saints, who deserved nothing for the way they started the game. With their hopes of the finals on the line, they couldn’t find anything resembling their form at the start of the year for most of the first half.
The Saints just couldn’t move the football and didn’t raise their heads above the football enough to cover it. They gave up 5.2 and lost the contentious possessions 34-26 in the first quarter.
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan looked as vibrant as ever in his short career at the highest level.
Weave through traffic and finish with class!
— AFL (@AFL) July 15, 2022
He finished with three goals, and was joined by nine other goalscorers.
Bontempelli also roared back into form. Last week, GWS coach Leon Cameron speculated that the Dogs skipper was injured, but he responded with two goals and 34 touches, claiming top honors on the ground.
The 26-year-old also had his touch and skill back in kicking, a piece late in the third term dubbed “the goal assist of all goal assists” by Whateley after some Bontempelli brilliance.
The Dogs’ forwards feasted on remarkable dominance in midfield. At halftime, the clearing battle was 21-10, with the Dogs holding control of that stat to finish in the green, 41-21.
If one stat summed up the Saints’ first half, it was just 13 tackles for the club at halftime.
They have played an average of 55 games throughout the year, but 13 players had no tackle to their name in the main break.
At one point, the Dogs had kicked seven unanswered goals, leading Gerard Healy to call the match a ‘debacle’ for St Kilda.
“I am stunned by what I have seen in this first half of St Kilda,” he said.
“As well as possible in the given circumstances!”
— AFL (@AFL) July 15, 2022
All in all, they were flattered by the scoreboard and things didn’t improve for the Moorabbin men in the second half.
The first two majors of the second half that came out in favor of the Dogs had the legend on the wall, and the Saints would suffer another embarrassing lost quarter.
“Saints supporters deserve better than this,” added Hawthorn legend Dermott Brereton late in the third term.
The team’s last quarter was better, but inaccuracy and possible selfishness sometimes cost them time as the Dogs threw numbers behind the footy.
For the Saints, there were few strong individual performances. However, Jack Sinclair (36 disposals) gave his best all day and kicked a brilliant goal to start the point in the last term, while Callum Wilkie was also solid in defence.
However, the club’s concerns will revolve around Paddy Ryder in the wake of the clash, which saw the veteran sidelined in the third term with a calf injury.
The Dogs host Melbourne next week, while St Kilda also hopes to win every game to finish the season, starting with West Coast Sunday week.
Western Bulldogs: 5.2, 8.4, 12.5, 16.6. (84)
St Kilda: 0.2, 2.4, 3.9, 7.14. (%6)
Western Bulldogs: Ugle-Hagan 3, Bontempelli 2, Treloar, Dale, Dunkley, Johannisen, Hannan, West, Garcia, Weightman
St Kilda: King 2, Wood, Billings, Jones, Steele, Sinclair
Western Bulldogs: Bontempelli, Liberatore, Macrae, Richards, Smith
St Kilda: Sinclair, Wilkie, Steele, Membrey, Battke
St Kilda: Ryder (calf)