COLLINGWOOD has avoided the fate of several other fancied teams in round three, crushing St Kilda by 44 points on Saturday to remain undefeated in season 2020.
MAGPIES v SAINTS Full match coverage and stats
The Magpies fought out a low-scoring draw with reigning premier Richmond nine days ago but returned to the winner's circle in a 12.9 (81) to 5.7 (37) result at the MCG.
On a day rocked by Irish Bomber Conor McKenna's positive COVID-19 test, leading premiership contender Collingwood restored some normality with a largely dominant performance.
The Saints threatened to seriously test the Pies when former Tiger Dan Butler strolled into the game's opening goal but Nathan Buckley's men responded with ruthless efficiency.
The returning Jaidyn Stephenson, overlooked in the opening two rounds, then fellow forward Jamie Elliott each slotted consecutive goals as Collingwood surged 20 points clear.
There was some mini-resistance from St Kilda, with Butler again involved as his side drew within eight points early in the second term but that was as close as it could get.
With Brodie Grundy (20 disposals, 31 hitouts) controlling his ruck battle with Saints Rowan Marshall and Paddy Ryder, and both Steele Sidebottom (31 disposals, six tackles) and Scott Pendlebury (26 disposals) racking up touches, the Magpies again responded savagely.
They effectively killed the game as a contest with a five-goal burst that blew the half-time margin out to 38 points.
St Kilda kicked just one more goal from there.
Brody Mihocek put through his second for the term with a booming effort from beyond 50m for the fourth of them before the Magpies' forward pressure created a moment Jack Billings will want back.
Forced onto the boundary, Billings' errant handball went straight to Jordan De Goey for the easiest of majors.
The Saints were best served by Jade Gresham (22 disposals, seven clearances), and recruits Butler (16 disposals, two goals) and Bradley Hill (25 disposals).
Welcome back, Jaidyn
There was much head-scratching going on when Collingwood last week overlooked young gun Jaidyn Stephenson for the second time this season. Stephenson's pre-season bout of glandular fever offered plenty of reason for his round one omission but it was surprising he couldn't force his way in after months to recondition himself. The 21-year-old, who won the 2018 NAB AFL Rising Star award for his 38-goal rookie season, finally earned a recall this week and wasted little time making his mark. After Dan Butler gave the Saints a great start, Stephenson responded with the next two goals to ignite the Pies, who never looked back on their way to a comfortable victory.
Butler delivers again
On what was a dirty day for the Saints, recruit Dan Butler's career renaissance continued with another lively display. Butler managed only seven games last year and wasn't part of Richmond's premiership team, after being a prominent part of the Tigers' mosquito fleet in 2017. He's fitting in beautifully in St Kilda's forward line this year. Butler's pair of first-half goals on Saturday means he has four goals in three matches, plus 18 tackles. He not only impacted the scoreboard but racked up 16 disposals, 11 of which were contested. Will go down as the biggest bargain of the Saints' busy Telstra AFL Trade Period.
Injury worries for Pies defenders
Important Collingwood backmen Brayden Maynard and Darcy Moore both left the field in the first half for medical attention. Maynard appeared to hurt his right knee in the process of tackling St Kilda's Dan Butler. He initially tried to play on before heading to the bench for some treatment. Moore sprinted from the ground inside the final two minutes of the second quarter holding his left hand after being involved in a contest. Any fears either player was dealing with something serious were allayed when they both returned and played the match out. Steele Sidebottom also shook off a big hit in the third term to complete his impressive outing.
COLLINGWOOD 5.3 10.4 11.7 12.9 (81)
ST KILDA 2.1 4.2 5.6 5.7 (37)
Collingwood: Stephenson 2, Elliott 2, Mihocek 2, T. Brown 2, Adams 2, Sidebottom, De Goey
St Kilda: Butler 2, Marshall, King, Marsh
Collingwood: Sidebottom, Grundy, Crisp, Pendlebury, Adams, Maynard
St Kilda: Gresham, Butler, Hill, Jones, Carlisle
St Kilda: Nil