ST KILDA has powered to three consecutive AFLW wins for the first time in club history, holding off Hawthorn at RSEA Park on Saturday afternoon, but may have lost veteran Steph Chiocci to injury in the process.
The Saints dominated the first three quarters and threatened a blowout win, before two quick Hawthorn goals to start the final stanza set up an exciting finish.
But the Saints held on for a nervy 7.3 (45) to 5.6 (36) win, ensuring they’ll continue knocking on the door of the top eight with four games left to play in the season.
Star Jaimee Lambert put in a dominant display with 26 disposals, a goal and nine tackles, while Nat Exon was dangerous all day with two majors from 17 touches and a pair of contested marks.
Saturday’s celebrations were soured, however, with Chiocci injuring her knee in a Kaitlyn Ashmore tackle deep in defence early in the first quarter.
SAINTS v HAWKS Full match coverage and stats
The 34-year-old hobbled off the field and was seen in crutches on the sidelines for the game’s remainder.
The Saints later confirmed Chiocci sustained an ACL tear, and losing her wealth of experience shapes as a big blow for a side desperate to keep in touch with the top eight.
The Hawks had the better of St Kilda in contested possession and clearance – usually key metrics – but were wasteful in front of goal early and broke down when attempting to send the ball inside 50.
Much of that was due to the Saints’ persistent pressure on the ball carrier, starving space and time from the Hawks in their forward half.
Conversely, St Kilda couldn’t miss, booting seven straight before its first scoreboard blemish.
Tilly Lucas-Rodd led from the front for Hawthorn as usual, but will be wondering “what if” after booting three behinds.
Meanwhile, Jasmine Fleming also looked a class above at times with her speed in another strong sign of the 18-year-old’s development.
Boom Hawthorn recruit Emily Bates fought hard in a losing side, picking up 32 disposals including 24 contested, 11 tackles and 11 clearances.
The Hawks looked dangerous running out the game in a spirited finish but ultimately had left themselves too much ground to make up.
Fellows back with the flight
The Hawks needed some early spark following last week’s fadeout against Brisbane, and Tahlia Fellows wasted no time inspiring her teammates. Running back with the flight, Fellows followed a ball sailing into Hawthorn’s forward pocket with no fear of the Saints defenders waiting to spoil. The 23-year-old reeled in a brave contested mark before converting the set shot for the Hawks’ opening major.
Young Saint Alice Burke found herself in an unenviable position midway through the second term, when the defender was outnumbered 1-3 as the ball rolled towards Hawthorn’s goal. The foot race was on, with the trio of Hawks waiting to swoop. Hawthorn forward Aine McDonagh collected the footy and simply needed to squeeze a handball out and the Hawks were almost certain to score. But she couldn’t, with Burke, hot on her heels, laying a textbook tackle to the delight of the home crowd and no doubt the coaches’ box.
St Kilda takes on Greater Western Sydney in a huge opportunity to turn three consecutive wins into four, hosting the Giants on Saturday at RSEA Park at 1.05pm AEDT. The Hawks head north to play Richmond in a Friday night test in the tropics at Cazalys Stadium in Cairns at 6.45pm AEST.
ST KILDA 3.0 6.0 7.2 7.3 (45)
HAWTHORN 1.2 2.5 2.5 5.6 (36)
St Kilda: Exon 2, Friend, Burke, Lambert, Vesely, Smith
Hawthorn: McDonagh 2, Fellows, Stratton, Gilroy
St Kilda: Lambert, Exon, Vesely, Smith, Patrikios
Hawthorn: Bates, Lucas-Rodd, Stratton, Fleming, Baskaran
St Kilda: Chiocci (knee)
Crowd: 2,812 at RSEA Park