Voss’ first blunder costs quirky Blues while Ratten’s masterclass brings Saints to life

When Dan Butler and Hunter Clark collided deep into the final term as St Kilda just clung to the lead against a rising Carlton, Saints fans would be forgiven for thinking their club was cursed.

A similar disastrous run with injuries had ruined their chances against Brisbane a month ago, leading to a run of three consecutive defeats, leaving them out of eight. Having lost key defender Dougal Howard to a knee injury midway through a stellar job with Harry McKay, and with Rowan Marshall’s return of his own head knock in doubt, running out of puff seemed a real possibility.

But after a week of challenges, with everyone up to Brett Ratten coming under fire for their tawdry loss to Sydney, the Saints were all passionate.

It wasn’t their best win of the year – their comeback win over Geelong remains the clubhouse leader in that regard – but in terms of their season, this 15-point win is certainly the most important. Whatever may happen in the next seven weeks.

The Blues have had a slew of ups and the occasional down in this year of resurgence, but they went against one of the footy traditions: watch out for a shocker for the squad. To prove a point, this was a different, more ruthless side of Saints than it had been at any point in a month, and even an in-form Blues couldn’t do much more than hold out for most of the match.

The turnaround could not only be attributed to the pair whose absence from the Swans this week caused such a stir – Bradley Hill and Paddy Ryder – but for completely different reasons, they were among the most pivotal saints. So was Jack Sinclair, who was given a new lease of life after being forgotten six days ago.

No one talks much about the Saints’ midfield except captain of the talisman Jack Steele, but it was at the colliery where this match was won. The injuries the Blues have sustained, especially on defense, mean that if you can match them at the source, you’re giving yourself a shot. A powerful Fremantle side couldn’t do it a lap ago; the saints’ engine room is certainly good.

Part of that was Ryder’s influence – at 34 years old, it’s proof that he remains quite comfortably the club’s most crucial player. Perhaps only Nic Naitanui can match him as the best tapruckman in the game, with a good number of his 31 hits – most notably a stunning one in favor of Jade Gresham in the third quarter, who went within inches of a goal – from the absolutely highest quality.

It’s fascinating how much more menacing the Saints look when Ryder and Marshall are both fit and fiery. Min Ryder last week, Marshall was working like a trojan, but couldn’t be everywhere at once.

Ryder regularly took central bounces and then rushed forward, leaving the only great Blues man Tom De Koning with a choice: either follow the veteran deep and risk being knocked out, as he was for one of Ryder’s two goals in the game. first quarter; or stick with Marshall as he roamed the ground and risked being run over in rags.

Marshall had 22 disposals, 12 marks – some titanic contested grabs all over the ground – and other than his short break in the last term, he was the dominant player in the air all night. Ryder ruled the interruptions but was just as important forward, ensuring regular attendance and making sure the Saints’ forward structure didn’t start and end with Max King.

Speaking of King, it was his night when Ratten deserved the most credit, on what was a great night at the helm of the uncontracted coach. Frustrated to the point of self-destruct with the quality of the ball handling against the Swans, Rats chose to make King the highest trap in world history.

Snagging the bags, dragging Lewis Young out of the dangerous space, the 50 opened up to lead targets, from the medium-sized Tim Membrey, who was stationed much closer to the target this week than last week, to the little Butler and Jack. Higgins who enjoyed the openness.

King had one kick in the first quarter and was only attacked once by the top 10 of the Saints in the 50’s. But his job wasn’t to keep up with the stats, it was to make life easier for his partners in crime. to make. It was as selfless a term as you could wish for from your spearhead.

Max King of the Saints celebrates a goal.

Max King of the Saints celebrates a goal. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

But it’s one thing to put all the pieces on the board – you still have to rely on your players to find goals. But it’s lucky that Ratten, in Hill and Jack Sinclair, has two of the best kicks of the year.

Both got way too much space from the Blues, especially early on; it became apparent how much impact Swan Ryan Clarke’s tag on the latter, and the absence of the former, had wiped out the Saints’ ball movement last week.

Sinclair’s first half was one of the best of the year by all players: with 24 dives with an 88 percent efficiency, won 403 meters and four within 50, he had already bagged the best honors by the main break.

As he slowed down from there, his composure, elite kicking skills and underrated defensive prowess – some of his work going back with the flight to spoil away from an attacking McKay unbelievably – made him an All Australian lock, and the clearly most improved player of 2022.

Hill’s night was more complicated: the loose man on the defensive in the first term, with Sam Walsh starting alongside him before pushing himself to become a reserve man during the match, the number 8 quickly proved why that move is full. risks.

Just as impressive as Sinclair to begin with, Hill had scored nine goals a quarter, won with 218 yards and three goals. Walsh was able to match the first stat, but was nowhere close to the others.

For most of the rest of the night, Voss sent Matt Cottrell to keep him company; and for a while in the second quarter, when the Blues blossomed with five straight goals, it was that move that looked like the game would change.

He immediately stopped Hill’s run and carry – the Saint was caught twice during that period holding the ball alone – and proved dangerous the other way. Cottrell kicked the first goal of the quarter and could have added another later.

Hill would still have 27 divestments and, however, was smart when he needed it; you would give the points in that match all to him. Despite all he’s accomplished this year, Voss didn’t seem to heed what the Swans had learned: The Saints love getting the ball into Hill and Sinclair’s hands more than Brian Taylor likes to call Jack Newnes ‘Noons’ . They must be stopped at all costs.

If the Saints won up close, the Blues lost in front of goal: as mischievous as they were and as fantastic as the Saints performed, things might have turned out differently if Carlton hadn’t lost the plot from the set shot.

Bad kicks are bad football, as the saying goes: Tom De Koning, George Hewett and especially Charlie Curnow sprayed simple shots everywhere but through the big sticks, while the Blues continued to do what they wanted in the third term.

They dominated pretty much every statistic for the term except the one that counted. They kicked 1.6; the Saints, despite one point within 50 for the second and third quarters combined, came in at 3.1. It was the difference between a big lead and chasing at three quarters of the time.

But when the Blues scored two quick goals to start the final term, with McKay’s considerable height and bulk advantage finally holding sway over the brave Josh Battle, it looked like their dominance would finally be reflected on the scoreboard.

But no. King, who went further into the ground this year than at any stage, started making towering spurs, a crucial hold on the half-defender to pull the Saints out of a backlog in defense. Ahead, grappling with a mismatch against the Blues’ underpowered backline, it was Membrey’s time to shine – a role reversal from last week that proved far more threatening.

With just one goal over the Saints’ three defeats, it was mind-boggling to see a player of Membrey’s forward-thinking nature stand so far on the ground for so many of their matches, as the team struggled to score goals. to make. It’s one thing to be a links player, but quite another to spend most of your time 150 yards away from the target.

Not so tonight. Taking a free kick and calmly scoring a goal to give the Saints some breathing room, his fourth for the night in the closing minutes – an overhead snap under pressure in the goal square worthy of a Rioli – was the icing on a famous Saints- cake.

These are the Saints from earlier this year – ferocious in close, tenacious defense, accurate in rebound and deadly close to goal. Fittingly, King, arguably the most influential player on the ground despite what the stats say, got the job done in the closing minutes.

Ratten’s smile said it all. It’s been a rough month for the Saints, but they’re BACK.

The race for the eight just got a lot tighter.