ST KILDA has survived an almighty scare from a courageous and injury-ravaged Carlton to hang on for its second win of the season with a nine-point victory at Etihad Stadium on Monday night.
The Saints looked home and hosed when they led by 36 points at the 12-minute mark of the third term, having out-run Carlton from the opening bounce.
But despite losing David Ellard and Chris Yarran to leg injuries midway through the first quarter, and having key defender Michael Jamison nursing a sore shoulder for much of the game, it was the Blues who finished the game full of running.
Having trailed by 33 points at three-quarter time, the Blues piled on the first five goals of the final term to get within four points at the 17-minute mark.
The Blues had seemed top heavy in the first three quarters, having played their three ruckmen, Robert Warnock, Shaun Hampson and Matthew Kreuzer, together for the first time this season. But the move of Kreuzer into a ruck-rover role alongside Warnock in the centre square sparked the team in the final term, while Henderson provided a strong forward target up forward, kicking three of the Blues' final quarter goals.
After playing a hectic brand of running football for much of the first three terms, the Saints slowed the pace of their ball movement late in the game and, when Ahmed Saad goaled at the 23-minute mark to put them 10 points up, were able to hang on for a 11.11 (77) to 9.14 (68) victory.
"To give the effort and get the reward, I think that's a real catalyst for this group," Watters said after the match.
"A lot of the senior players out there have been leading really strongly for us and for the younger players, that sort of experience for them is invaluable.
"I'm really proud of them, I thought they were great."
Saints skipper Nick Riewoldt continued his outstanding start to the season with a three-goal, 13-mark game that was characterised by his trademark gut-busting run.
Riewoldt's teammates took his lead from the opening bounce, running in waves across the ground to dominate general play up until midway through the third quarter.
The Saints' mastery of the Blues was reflected in their dominance of the possession, contested possession and inside 50 counts to that point.
But the Blues wrested control of the match from there, recording 11 consecutive inside 50s from midway through the third quarter to the six-minute mark of the final term.
The Saints' task was aided by the Blues' horrendous injury toll, which began before the game when vice-captain Andrew Carrazzo (calf) was also a late withdrawal.
Adding to the carnage, Eddie Betts may be cited by the Match Review Panel for a high bump on St Kilda's Nathan Wright in the third term, which caused Wright to be subbed off.
"I thought our third (quarter) was very good, we just didn't score, 1.5 to 3.1, and had it in there more times than them," he said.
"(We) just lacked that little bit of poise and little bit of class perhaps at a time when you needed to use the football a bit better.
"I thought the boys fought it out fantastically … I thought our players should be applauded for their effort."
Midfielder Jack Steven continues to stand up in the absence of veteran Lenny Hayes, leading the Saints for clearances and racking up a game-high 39 possessions and nine clearances.
Ruckman Ben McEvoy was also outstanding for the Saints, regularly dropping back to take relieving marks in defence and battling manfully against the Blues' ruck trio.
Jarryn Geary also vindicated the Saints' decision to leave Clinton Jones out of their final team, shutting Carlton skipper Marc Murphy out of the game.
Former Blues captain Chris Judd was his team's best, working tirelessly around the stoppages, and was well supported by Dennis Armfield and Andrew Walker in defence.
The Saints' dominated play from the opening bounce but struggled to convert it on the scoreboard until late in the first term.
At the end of the first term, the Saints led the possession count 112-70 and inside 50s 15-nine, but only led by seven points at the first break.
It was a similar story in the second quarter, but despite some inaccuracy in front of goal the Saints started to translate their dominance onto the scoreboard, kicking four goals to the Blues' one to go into half-time 25 points up.
Nick Riewoldt continued his hot form as the Saints held on to beat the Blues. Picture: AFL Media
ST KILDA 3.5 7.7 10.8 11.11 (77)
CARLTON 2.4 3.6 4.11 9.14 (68)
St Kilda: Riewoldt 3, Saad 2, Milne 2, Siposs, Roberton, Milera, Armitage
Carlton: Henderson 3, Garlett 2, Walker, Simpson, McLean, Hampson
St Kilda: Riewoldt, Steven, McEvoy, Fisher, Geary, Dal Santo
Carlton: Judd, Henderson, Garlett, Armfield, Walker, Scotland
St Kilda: Nathan Wright (head), Arryn Siposs (ankle)
Carlton: David Ellard (calf), Chris Yarran (hamstring), Michael Jamison (shoulder), Andrew Carrazzo (calf) replaced in the selected side by Jaryd Cachia
St Kilda: Jimmy Webster replaced Nathan Wright in the third quarter
Carlton: Jaryd Cachia replaced David Ellard in the first quarter
Umpires: Stewart, Chamberlain, Kamolins
Official crowd: 34,054 at Etihad Stadium