St Kilda's Nick Dal Santo looks upfield during his 250th game
NICK Riewoldt and Nick Dal Santo were able to celebrate their milestone games at the MCG on Saturday evening, with St Kilda defeating Melbourne by 35 points.
Neither of the 250-game players starred in the 16.8 (104) to 10.9 (69) victory, and indeed it was their long-time teammate Leigh Montagna who was best on ground as the Saints won for just the third time this year.
Riewoldt kicked three goals – two of them as the result of soft free kicks – and truth be told, lowered his colours to Melbourne youngster Tom McDonald.
Dal Santo was typically industrious with 28 possessions, but the key to the win was Montagna, the best midfielder on the ground with 35 possessions. Jack Steven was also great for the Saints, particularly early, with 30 touches including a game-high nine clearances.
It was a big week for both clubs. The Saints had the milestone celebrations and the dramas surrounding Stephen Milne, while the Demons were playing their first match under interim coach Neil Craig following the sacking last Monday of Mark Neeld.
It should have made for a frantic opening, but the Saints dominated early with three goals in the opening five minutes, before the Demons registered their first kick in the match. Steven was pivotal St Kilda's flying start and was the dominant player in the first term, in which the Saints kicked seven goals to three to lead by 26 points.
The Saints were never really threatened thereafter. Melbourne put together some decent bursts in patches and certainly Craig and the hardy few Melbourne supporters among the 28,751 at the MCG would have taken some encouragement from parts of the match.
There were considerable periods after quarter-time when the Demons won the clearances and moved the ball forward with speed. But the forward line was a mess for much of the afternoon with Jack Watts down on confidence, Chris Dawes looking unfit and mysteriously, Jeremy Howe not featuring forward of centre until the second half.
Jimmy Toumpas played his best game for Melbourne to date, while first-gamer Mitch Clisby showed some promise.
But St Kilda was much cleaner, punishing Melbourne on the turnover going forward and the goals were shared around, with 12 goalkickers for the evening.
Saints coach Scott Watters was pleased with his side's bright opening
. "We've got a terrific playing group. We've got a great group of leaders so we asked them for a fast start, an aggressive start, and we knew that contested ball was going to be an absolute key focus early in the game when both clubs have had the weeks that they've had.
"I thought we controlled the ball reasonably well into the second half. It wasn't a pretty game by any stretch of the imagination.
"But, we walk away with a win and that's a really pleasing result for the club. Craig said the Demons have a long way to go
. "We're not competitive in real terms of where the competition is," he said.
"We'll keep working hard. We need to get out standard up. In the first quarter the contested ball was minus 17 and that's not going to get you close. We have to tidy up our execution. We're not competitive with that."
The match never rose to great heights, but it wasn't without incident.
Both teams are back at the MCG next week. The Saints are away to Richmond on Sunday evening, while Melbourne is at home to the Western Bulldogs on Saturday night.
St Kilda stalwarts Nick Riewoldt and Nick Dal Santo get chaired off the ground. Picture: AFL Media
ST KILDA 7.2 10.3 15.6 16.8 (104)
MELBOURNE 3.0 5.4 7.5 10.9 (69)
St Kilda: Riewoldt 3, Koschitzke 2, Ray 2, Jones, Dennis-Lane, Montagna, Ross, Dempster, Stanley, Armitage, Milera, Geary
Melbourne: Watts 2, Howe 2, Kent, Blease, Dawes, Jones, Byrnes, Fitzpatrick
St Kilda: Montagna, Steven, Ray, Roberton, Dal Santo, Gwilt
Melbourne: Garland, N. Jones, Blease, McDonald, Spencer, Clisby
St Kilda: Fisher (foot), replaced in selected side by Murdoch, McEvoy (concussion)
St Kilda: Ben McEvoy subbed out for Jimmy Webster in the third quarter
Melbourne: Chris Dawes (ill) subbed out for Daniel Nicholson in the fourth quarter
Reports: Spencer (Melbourne) reported for head-high frontal contact against McEvoy in the second quarter
Umpires: Dalgleish, Ryan, McInerney
Official crowd: 28,751 at the MCG
Ashley Browne is an AFL Media senior writer. @afl_hashbrowne