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Five talking points: Hawthorn v St Kilda

Highlights: Hawthorn v St Kilda The Hawks and Saints clash in round six
LAUNCESTON, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 29:  Koby Stevens of the Saints celebrates after scoring a goal during the round six AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the St Kilda Saints at University of Tasmania Stadium on April 29, 2017 in Launceston, Australia.  (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images/AFL Media)
Koby Stevens impressed in his first game for the Saints

1. Saints seize control early
During their 19 consecutive victories in Launceston, the Hawks had made an art form of possession football, routinely exerting control at the contest and keeping hold of the Sherrin thanks to superior ball use. But it was the Saints who applied the possession stranglehold during a dominant opening term at University of Tasmania Stadium, registering 40 more disposals than the Hawks and leading the uncontested possession count by 86-55 at the first break. If not for some wayward kicking, the Saints looked worthy of a lead at least twice as big as the 10-point break they'd opened by quarter-time.

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2. Hawks lacking spark
A bruised hip courtesy of a heavy landing at the MCG last weekend put paid to Cyril Rioli’s chances of travelling to Tasmania to face the Saints and meant the fan favourite was missing from the Launceston team sheet for the fifth consecutive time. Whether it was all down to Cyril's absence seems unlikely, but the Hawks certainly lacked spark during a worrying first half that saw them struggle to keep pace with the Saints or apply meaningful pressure inside forward 50. While the usually reliable Paul Puopolo and Luke Breust struggled to assert themselves and create shots on goal against St Kilda's well-organised defence, Mav Weller and Jack Billings were far busier – and more effective – in corresponding roles in the St Kilda forward half.

3. Riewoldt brings up his 700th
Signs that the Saints were determined to capitalise on their excellent first half were obvious just moments into the second half when the team celebrated with Koby Stevens after the former Bulldog booted his first goal in his new colours. Even more celebration was to come moments later when club legend Nick Riewoldt brought up his 700th goal for the club, etching another line into his storied career as a Saint. The milestone goal came five minutes into what proved to be a match-winning quarter as St Kilda ran riot and cleared out to a 68-point lead at the final change thanks to eight majors.

 

4. Saint Koby impresses on debut
Saints coach Alan Richardson suggested during the week that the addition of Stevens for his first game at the club would add steel around the contest during periods of opposition dominance. And as the former Bulldog muscled his way to 15 first-half disposals, as well as three clearances and four tackles, Richardson must have been pleased with what he saw. Little did he know at the long break that Stevens would come out in the third term to add a brace of goals as the Saints steamrolled Hawthorn to all but bank four premiership points on a memorable afternoon for Saints fans everywhere.

5. Dynasty is done for now
The last time Hawthorn lost in Launceston was on April 29, 2012 against an Adam Goodes-inspired Swans outfit. Exactly five years later, the dynasty that saw them win 19 consecutive matches in Tasmania – not to mention a hat-trick of AFL premierships – might just have been snuffed out by a committed and energetic St Kilda outfit. Uncharacteristic losses in the early rounds had been somewhat forgiven after a comprehensive round five victory over the Eagles, but the Hawks were a shadow of their former selves as they failed to match the Saints in any department. Facing a 1-5 record after six rounds, the Hawks are in genuinely unfamiliar territory and struggling for answers – but their next three fixtures still look winnable and victory in all three must be a non-negotiable if the Hawks are to scramble back into finals contention by mid-season.