MELBOURNE is a game clear on top of the ladder and remains unbeaten in 2022, after producing its best form so far this year in its 38-point victory over a gallant St Kilda at the MCG on Sunday.
The Saints worked their way back into the contest after the Demons dominated the first half, but ultimately the reigning premiers’ class and experience was telling in their 14.9 (93) to 8.7 (55) triumph – their 15th win on the bounce.
Melbourne looked like it was coasting to a big win early, taking a 23-point margin into quarter-time thanks largely to Kysaiah Pickett (three goals for the match), who gave Jimmy Webster the run-around. Pickett finished the quarter with two goals from eight possessions, of which seven were contested.
Charlie Spargo and Trent Rivers also hit the scoreboard, with the latter kicking his first goal of the year and fourth of his 41-game career.
Tim Membrey should have kicked the Saints’ first goal after he marked just before quarter-time, but his kick from 15m out straight in front was adjudged to be touched by the man on the mark.
Melbourne showed glimpses of its imperious best during the second quarter, with Ben Brown and Tom McDonald both kicking two goals, and Angus Brayshaw, who was brilliant, adding another.
DEMONS v SAINTS Full match coverage and stats
After seven touches in the first term, Clayton Oliver went berserk in the second, gathering 15 disposals at 87 per cent efficiency, as well as five clearances. He would finish with 38 and possibly three more Brownlow votes, although Ed Langdon (39 touches) and Brayshaw (31 possessions and a goal) are sure to challenge for best afield honours.
The Dees led by 47 points at one stage, but the Saints rallied, with goals to Membrey and Patrick Ryder cutting the deficit to 35 points at the main break.
St Kilda looked up for the fight in the third term, and when Max King kicked the first two goals of quarter, the Saints had four goals in a row and were full of belief.
The Dees steadied, however, with Brown kicking his third goal four minutes before the final change.
The Saints won the term 2.3 to 1.2, handing the Dees their first third-quarter loss of the year, and while the stats don’t paint an accurate picture, Brett Ratten’s men were the better side for most of the term and probably deserved to be closer than the 28-point margin.
St Kilda kept asking questions of the league leaders in the fourth quarter, but the Dees answered every challenge to continue their winning streak which started back in round 20 last year.
A memorable day for milestone man McDonald
Having been on the scrap heap at the end of 2020 and conceding he thought his AFL career may be over, the premiership player brought up the 200-game milestone on Sunday, and he did so in style, playing an important part in the Dees’ big win. The defender-turned-forward finished with two goals, and should have kicked at least three, as well as 13 disposals, four marks and six score involvements.
Unbeaten Bowey becomes a record holder
Melbourne youngster Jake Bowey created history on Sunday, becoming the only player to win his first consecutive 15 games. The 19-year-old, who was selected with pick No.21 in the 2020 NAB AFL Draft, also has a premiership on his CV.
Who can possibly beat the Dees?
The Dees are 8-0, seemingly have at least one more gear to go to, and have won 15 matches on the bounce. History says it’s unlikely they will go through the season undefeated, with Collingwood in 1929 the only team to record a perfect (18-0) season, however, it’s not totally implausible to see Melbourne matching that historic feat. The Demons have the Eagles (in Perth) and the Kangaroos in the next fortnight; both games they should win. Perhaps their stiffest test will come in round 11, when the Dees host the 7-1 Dockers at the MCG.
MELBOURNE 4.2 9.3 10.5 14.9 (93)
ST KILDA 0.3 3.4 5.7 8.7 (55)
Melbourne: Brown 3, Pickett 3, Harmes 2, McDonald 2, Brayshaw, Fritsch, Rivers, Spargo
St Kilda: King 2, Marshall 2, Higgins, Membrey, Ryder, Windhager
Melbourne: Oliver, Langdon, Brayshaw, Petracca, Harmes, Sparrow, May
St Kilda: Steele, Sinclair, Crouch, Ross, Membrey, Ross
St Kilda: Butler (Achilles)
Melbourne: Toby Bedford
St Kilda: Marcus Windhager (replaced Butler)
Crowd: 35,767 at the MCG