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Match report: Saints be praised as Blues crumble

Highlights: St Kilda v Carlton The Saints and Blues clash in round 12
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 12: Tom Hickey of the Saints  and atthew Kreuzer of the Blues compete for the ball during the 2016 AFL Round 12 match between the St Kilda Saints and the Carlton Blues at Etihad Stadium on June 12, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Scott Barbour/AFL Media)
Tom Hickey and Matthew Kreuzer do battle in the ruck

NOT LONG after St Kilda was thumped by Adelaide last week, coach Alan Richardson said he could not assess whether the group had progressed this season until he saw how the players responded to the loss.

On Sunday, the Saints' statement against Carlton was emphatic.

St Kilda claimed its fifth win of the season with its 32-point victory over the Blues at Etihad Stadium, and did it in comprehensive fashion.

After heavy interstate defeats in the past month to the Crows and West Coast, Richardson could hardly have asked for a better outing, with his side triumphing 17.8 (110) to 12.6 (78).

The Saints extended their lead at every change, dominated the midfield battle and covered the absence of senior players Nick Riewoldt, Sam Fisher and Sean Dempster by sharing the load.

Five talking points: Thanks for the Membrey

The Blues were targeting their seventh win from eight games and would have been out of the top eight only on percentage had they clinched the win, but they were outplayed throughout the contest.

A sell-out crowd of 47,945 packed the Docklands venue to see Jack Steven put in a brilliant performance through the midfield with 25 disposals and three goals, while Saints forward Tim Membrey kicked an equal career-high bag of five goals.

Seb Ross's 33-disposal and one-goal performance was one of the best in his five seasons at the club, while Jack Newnes (24 disposals), Jimmy Webster (23) and Leigh Montagna (26) helped set up the Saints' swift ball movement.

Richardson praised his side for lifting following last week's 88-point loss.

"To respond to what happened last week, which was so poor … and that was our want. to get after the opposition and put them under pressure," he said post-game.  

"Particularly in the second quarter, whilst the margin was created in the third, [it was] our ability to hunt and also defend really strongly from a team perspective. To see us come forward and be bold in the way we defended was the most positive.

"We got some really good offensive opportunities out of that but that was the area that we really wanted to address, it was the area that we'd focussed on so that was our most positive."

After an impressive run of form under new coach Brendon Bolton the Blues looked flat, with Kade Simpson (30 disposals) and Dale Thomas (31) among Carlton's best. Ed Curnow, in his 100th game, also gathered 29 touches, while Patrick Cripps overcame a slow start to finish with 26 disposals and 10 clearances.

Bolton said the defeat wasn't a reality check and blamed overuse of the ball as a reason for the disappointing loss.

"We had a patch in the third quarter where they got us in the centre bounces," he said.

"So by and large, turnovers, overuse and centre bounces [were the areas we got beaten in] and that's where you need to give St Kilda real credit.

"They came with pressure, they came with intensity and they forced that a lot, so I need to acknowledge that as well."

It was a slow start not only for Cripps, with an error-riddled opening term full of blunders. The first goal came 15 minutes into the game when Andrew Walked waltzed in from close range.

The scoring picked up thereafter, with St Kilda kicking four of the next six goals to take an eight-point lead into the second term.

 

The Blues briefly halted that momentum, with Matthew Kreuzer's bullocking work at ground level creating an opportunity for Levi Casboult, who converted his shot at goal.

But Membrey's third goal of the game – another neat shot from the pocket – kick-started a good run for the Saints, who took a 25-point lead when first-gamer Lewis Pierce nabbed a goal from close range.

The Blues were able to cut it back to a 19-point deficit at half-time, but with key midfielder Cripps subdued they were lacking the on-ball penetration that has been central to their improvement in 2016.

The Saints, meanwhile, were playing in a far different manner to the team that was thrashed by the Crows last week and it wasn't only about the personnel after six changes during the week.

Not only did they contain the Blues' movement, they were relentless with their pressure (they had 38 tackles to 25 in the first half) and were potent in attack even with skipper Riewoldt sitting on the sidelines nursing a knee injury.

Webster's hardness was important in the third term as the Saints' batch of young midfielders continued to dominate, and when Ross snapped a goal 18 minutes into the term St Kilda had extended their lead to 41 points.  

Former Crow Matthew Wright's second goal of the quarter helped Carlton get back within 29 points late in the term to give the Blues some hope, before Membrey's fifth goal – a clever checkside kick – and then a running goal to Mav Weller went a long way to sealing the contest.

Steven, who was the Saints' captain for the day in the absence of Riewoldt, did that a minute into the last term, when he booted a long running goal and celebrated accordingly.

MEDICAL ROOM
St Kilda:
Defender Tom Lee left the field in the third quarter with a leg problem and immediately headed to the rooms. He returned at three-quarter time appearing to do a fitness test away from the huddle, but couldn't make it back onto the field in the last term.
Carlton: The Blues appeared to get through the game with no injury concerns.

NEXT UP
It is the first week of the bye rounds next week and both Carlton and St Kilda have the week off. They'll take some time off and reload for the second half of the year.

ST KILDA    4.2    8.3    14.8    17.8 (110)
CARLTON    3.0    5.2    8.3    12.6 (78)

GOALS

St Kilda:
Membrey 5, Steven 3, Gresham 2, Acres, Montagna, Hickey, Pierce, Newnes, Ross, Weller
Carlton: Casboult 3, Walker 3, Wright 2, Simpson, Lamb, Gibbs, Everitt

BEST
St Kilda:
Steven, Membrey, Ross, Webster, Newnes, Hickey, Montagna
Carlton: Simpson, Wright, Docherty, Curnow, Thomas

INJURIES 
St Kilda:
Lee (left knee)
Carlton: Nil

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Foot, Bannister, Dalgleish

Official crowd: 47,945 at Etihad Stadium