Jack Higgins celebrates a goal in the round eight clash between North Melbourne and St Kilda at Marvel Stadium on May 7, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

NORTH Melbourne produced a goalless first half for the first time in almost 44 years as St Kilda prevailed by 30 points in the ugliest game of the AFL season to date.

There were few highlights in an error-riddled contest on Sunday despite perfect conditions under the roof at Marvel Stadium.

Captain Jack Steele (20 disposals, nine clearances) and physical ruckman Rowan Marshall (21, five) steered the Saints to an 8.16 (64) to 4.10 (34) triumph, with Dan Butler and Jack Higgins kicking two goals apiece.

KANGAROOS v SAINTS Full match coverage and stats

However, Marshall finished the match on the bench with ice on his left ankle after Jade Gresham had already been substituted out with a sore knee and hand.


The result reaffirmed the Ross Lyon-coached Saints' (6-2) spot in the top four after losses in two of their previous three matches.

The Kangaroos, now on a six-match losing streak, set records for the wrong reasons as they kicked 0.7 from 22 forward entries in the first half.

It was the first time they had been goalless at the main break since round 12, 1979.


Nick Larkey eventually broke the drought at the three-minute mark of the third quarter and booted his second four minutes later, cutting the margin to 10 points.

But the Saints steadied with three of the next four goals and fought out a scrappy win.

Mattaes Phillipou provided a rare highlight when he soared over teammate Brad Crouch and Darcy Tucker for a huge final-quarter mark.


Tucker was also on the receiving end of a huge bump from Jack Sinclair.

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North Melbourne spearhead Larkey finished with three goals, all in the third quarter, and young star Harry Sheezel gathered 30 disposals in another strong display.

Harry Sheezel in action during the round eight clash between North Melbourne and St Kilda at Marvel Stadium on May 7, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

The worst half of football this year was best characterised by a comedy of errors during the second term, which started when Saints teammates Brad Crouch and Ben Paton collided in the centre of the ground.

What should have been an uncontested mark to one of them instead gifted North Melbourne an open shot at goal, but Cameron Zurhaar missed on the run from 20 metres.


Larkey's two goals at the start of the second half gave the Kangaroos genuine hope, but a 50-metre penalty against Jy Simpkin allowed Mitch Owens to steady for the Saints, who held their opponents at bay.

Kangaroos veteran Ben Cunnington was substituted out for the second time this season, having managed just seven disposals in three quarters.


Old heads are sitting on young Saints' shoulders
Sunday was far from St Kilda’s best game of the season, in fact few would argue it wasn’t their worst, but Ross Lyon’s side showed the maturity it takes to win, even when you are far from your best. The Saints of recent years had the capacity to blow opposition sides away when they were switched on, but on those days when the vibe wasn’t their they would give little resistance. Not this mob. Lyon has got them in the professional headspace they need to be if it’s to play finals and possibly challenge for a flag. It’ll be interesting to see if he can keep them there.

Cooper Sharman celebrates a goal during the round eight clash between North Melbourne and St Kilda at Marvel Stadium on May 7, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

Drury’s not out on new Roo
When a club is rebuilding fans love nothing more than seeing young talent get a run, and North supporters will have been happy with what they saw from Blake Drury in his debut game. The red-headed small forward’s first touch was greeted with applause from the Roos faithful and he must have liked the sound of it, going on to get 13 disposals in a performance that suggests he will be very comfortable at the level for a long time.

Blake Drury receives his jumper from Alastair Clarkson before the round eight clash between North Melbourne and St Kilda at Marvel Stadium on May 7, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Defence is great but you still need to score
Since the beginning of April North Melbourne’s scoring has plummeted like an Elon Musk rocket. Over the past five rounds the Roos’ total tallies are 84, 77, 54, 49 and 34. There’s been some good opposition and bad weather along the way, but Sunday’s contest was under the Marvel Stadium roof against a St Kilda side that looked like it had time-travelled from five years ago. While defence may be the key word for a rebuild, Alastair Clarkson still needs to find a way to score, and it should be interesting to see what the master coach comes up with.


NORTH MELBOURNE    0.4    0.7    3.7      4.10 (34)
ST KILDA                      1.6    3.9    6.15    8.16 (64)

North Melbourne:
Larkey 3, Stephenson
St Kilda:
Butler 2, Higgins 2, Sinclair, Sharman, Owens, Wood

North Melbourne:
Ziebell, McKay, Sheezel, Goldstein, Shiels
St Kilda: Wilkie, Steele, Clark, Owens, Marshall, Hill

North Melbourne:
St Kilda:
 Marshall (Ankle), Gresham (knee)

North Melbourne: Charlie Lazzaro (replaced Ben Cunnington at three-quarter time)
St Kilda: Jack Bytel (replaced Jade Gresham at three-quarter time)

Crowd: 22,065 at Marvel Stadium