Highlights: St Kilda v Gold Coast
The Saints and Suns clash in round 9
Luke Russell and Harley Bennell celebrate a Suns goal on Sunday evening
GOLD Coast has taken another step towards reaching the finals for the first time in its four-season history, riding a dominant first half to a 38-point win over a plucky St Kilda at Etihad Stadium on Sunday evening.
The Suns put the Saints to the sword with a club-record first quarter, 8.4 (52), and first half, 13.7 (85), that gave them a commanding 57-point lead at the main break.
But the Saints hit back with a six-goal-to-three third term and when Jack Newnes kicked the opening goal of the fourth quarter they had closed to within 32 points.
However, the Suns never let them get any closer than that, kicking three final-quarter goals to run out comfortable winners.
Ablett was outstanding for the Suns with a game-high 37 possessions and four goals, in a performance that should shorten his already short Brownlow Medal odds.
The Suns skipper kicked three of the Suns' eight first-quarter goals, regularly leaving opponent Clint Young grasping at fresh air.
The Saints switched ex-Sun Maverick Weller onto his former captain in the second term, a move that curbed Ablett's influence up forward but not around the ground.
The Suns now sit fifth on the ladder with a 6-2 record, with only ladder-ladder Port Adelaide having won more games, and only brave punters would bet against them making the finals for the first time in their history.
Before this season, the Suns had won just one game in Melbourne, but they have now won all three of their games there in 2014 and their youngsters are quickly developing the experience and maturity to match their undoubted talent.
"Certainly getting consistency in [our starts] that's important," McKenna said.
"As an interstate club when you do play interstate you want to get on top of the opposition early and quieten the crowd and do all those sort of things.
"So certainly the boys started the first quarter really well. I thought the second quarter was really good, (we were) poor in the third quarter and finished off half-OK in the last."
Jaeger O'Meara was outstanding for the Suns in the midfield with 29 possessions, along with Dion Prestia and David Swallow (each had 28 possessions), while small forward Brandon Matera was dangerous with four goals.
Ruckman Zac Smith also made an encouraging return in his first game since he ruptured an anterior cruciate ligament in round eight last year.
The Saints' loss was their fourth in a row and after a promising 3-2 start to the season they have now slumped to 15th on the ladder.
They have a bye next round, but then face a tough three weeks with games against Collingwood, Port Adelaide (Adelaide Oval) and Geelong.
"There's no doubt the guys' response after half-time was a positive," Richardson said.
"Having said that, it's disappointing when the game's up for grabs that we get beaten so badly, particularly in the contest.
"It was pleasing that … we haven't had great starts to the game but they've found a way to respond. In the Hawthorn game, that didn't happen."
Lenny Hayes led the way for St Kilda with 32 possessions, while Jack Steven and Jack Newnes were solid contributors.
David Swallow under pressure from Lenny Hayes on Sunday evening. Picture: AFL Media
ST KILDA 3.2 4.4 10.7 13.9 (87)
GOLD COAST 8.4 13.7 16.9 19.11 (125)
St Kilda: Riewoldt 3, Steven 2, Stanley, Ray, Schneider, Milera, Siposs, Newnes, Weller, Billings
Gold Coast: Ablett 4, Matera 4, Lynch 4, Bennell 3, Russell, Swallow, Day, Hall
St Kilda: Hayes, Steven, Newnes, Ray, Shenton
Gold Coast: Ablett, O'Meara, Prestia, Swallow, Lynch, Rischitelli
St Kilda: Dempster (cut head), Acres (ankle), Delaney (hip)
Gold Coast: Lemmens (leg)
St Kilda: Luke Delaney (hip) substituted out for Blake Acres in the fourth quarter
Gold Coast: Sean Lemmens (leg) substituted out for Alex Sexton in the third quarter
Umpires: Foot, Armstrong, Jeffery
Official crowd: 14,625 at Etihad Stadium