St Kilda players walk off the ground after the R3 match against Essendon at Marvel Stadium on March 30, 2024. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

ST KILDA coach Ross Lyon says a mixture of youth, inconsistency and missed opportunities contributed to a four-point loss to Essendon, having led for all but the final six minutes of the game.

The Saints had started brightly, and at one point got out to a 22-point lead in the second term, but the Bombers clawed their way back into the contest, and controlled play for the final term.

BOMBERS v SAINTS Full match coverage and stats

"Sometimes a real positive start, eight shots to two [and] off last week you feel pretty good about yourselves. Then all you need is one player to go, 'oh, I'll let (Jack) Steele do the work', then one becomes two, and you're looking for an easier game," Lyon said.

"It's a very demanding competition where people are dog-hungry and you leave yourself vulnerable, and I think that's what happened."

After an important win over reigning premier Collingwood last week, Lyon said he was looking for greater consistency from his younger players.

"(Marcus) Windhager played great last week, and Nas (Wanganeen-Milera) – it's a brutal competition to come up. We've got Corey Enright and Robert Harvey (as assistant coaches), to be those guys, we've got to come up every week, and not every second or third week, and that's the feedback they get today," he said.


"And that's OK, because they're babies, and we'll wrap our arms around them and try and bunk them up, and as they get fitter and mentally stronger, they can keep doing it week in and week out, or every four out of five at a high level like (Scott) Pendlebury and Enright and Harvey."

Lyon said it'd be unfair to Essendon to label the game as a missed opportunity for St Kilda, saying the Bombers were stronger in the contest and loaded up on forward-50 entries in the final term. 

"They kicked 2.6 (in the last quarter), most of it from stoppage. Their centre-bounce work, over the day they beat us comprehensively. We got our hands on the ball, but I have to look at it, I feel like we got stripped or were a bit cute," Lyon said.


"If we had our noses in front a bit more … a little more reward for effort. We never felt safe, and they did what they did. We knew coming in they were a pretty good clearance team, (Zach) Merrett and (Darcy) Parish, and to their credit, they lost (Will) Setterfield (pre-match to knee soreness) as well. 

"We got done around the ball, really simply. We asked for a bit of composure with our ball use – every time we spread, we looked super dangerous. At the clutch, we had opportunities where we didn't take good opportunities with players [free]."

St Kilda veteran Seb Ross could come under MRO scrutiny after his tackle on Sam Durham resulted in a concussion for the Bomber, who also appeared at the time to hurt his shoulder in the incident.

"His shoulder's fine, we subbed him off with concussion. It looked to me as well like shoulder-wrist, but he banged his head on the ground,” Essendon coach Brad Scott said.

“That's why we made the decision so quickly, because as soon as it was even a concussion assessment - he'll go into protocols now."

Scott was thrilled with how his team had grinded out its second victory for the season, having defeated Hawthorn in its opening match.

"I think sometimes the gritty wins are internally some of the best. The thing I was probably most pleased about today was the effort and intent, in front of 45-odd thousand of our supporters, to see that effort and intent that really want to make a hallmark of our game," Scott said.


"That can be easy when things are going your way, and I was probably looking for a reset button three minutes into the game, we were a bit all over the place. Perhaps in the past, according to some of the players, they might have dropped their bundle, that this isn't our day today.

"Later in the game – this isn't a comment on the decision or anything – the (Jake) Stringer free kick and 50, and goal to St Kilda, 12-point turnaround, the thing I focused on was how do we get back into the contest and focus on what we can control."

Essendon struggled with its composure and skill execution in the first half, battling under enormous St Kilda pressure, and it took a ripping Stringer goal from a tight angle to win the game.


"I thought the game was on a bit of a knife's edge. We don't coach skill errors on gameday. In the coaches' box, we can be – that's not to say we don't get frustrated and disappointed, it's how quickly we can get our heads back in the game as a coaching group and not become barrackers, focus on what we can control," Scott said.

"We made some adjustments at half-time, but largely we thought it was a really good contest and it was going to be the team who could persist the longest who would get over the line.

"It's something about those sorts of players – you never want to bet against them, put it that way. That was good reward for Jake, but I was more impressed with his effort and intent, when the game was hot, he was really strong in the contest, when the game was broken out into open space, he chased with intent. They're the things we're looking for from Jake."