Liam Henry celebrates during the round 12 match between West Coast and St Kilda at Optus Stadium, June 1, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

WINGMAN Mason Wood was the ace in St Kilda's pack in a gritty road win against West Coast, swinging forward in the last quarter to drive his team to an impressive 14-point win at Optus Stadium on Saturday.

Trailing by 11 points early in the fourth quarter and with key forward Max King substituted because of a knee injury, Wood rose to kick three of his game-high four goals in the final term as the Saints won 12.10 (82) to 10.8 (68).

EAGLES v SAINTS Full match coverage and stats

It was a magnificent late surge as the Saints took control of the game to kick five of the last six goals and at least keep sight of the logjam of teams in the middle of the ladder with their fourth win of the season.

In a scrappy at times but highly entertaining clash that saw the lead change nine times, midfielder Marcus Windhager was immense in a brilliant second-half tagging job on rampaging star Harley Reid to make the result possible. 


The Eagles will now wait on the Match Review assessment of Reid's tackle on fellow draftee Darcy Wilson, which will at least be looked at after the Saints' speedster was slung to ground and hit his head before being assessed and playing out the game.

Reid looked like ripping the match away from the Saints in a brilliant second quarter, but he was held by Windhager to just three disposals in the second half and appeared frustrated as he met a new challenge in his debut season.


The Saints were otherwise best served by Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera (24 disposals and seven rebounds) and Jack Sinclair (23 and a goal), with ruckman Rowan Marshall (40 hitouts and eight clearances) grinding his opponents down late. 

Midfield recruit Paddy Dow stepped up significantly with a team-high nine clearances as captain Jack Steele battled an effective tag from Dom Sheed. 

The Saints launched into Saturday's clash and had 11 of the first 12 forward entries, but their haphazard delivery forward of centre let them down repeatedly and they kicked only 1.2 for their dominance.

When the game settled and the Eagles were able to assert themselves more in the contest, they got some late reward through Andrew Gaff and Jack Darling and were able to take a nine-point lead into the first break.


The second quarter followed a similar early pattern as St Kilda controlled the contest and got its transition game going through the speed and clean skills of Sinclair and Wanganeen-Milera.

They took a three-point lead when former Docker Liam Henry crumbed and snapped a nice goal in his return to Perth, and the Saints had all the momentum and a style that looked to be working. 


From that point on, however, it was Reid's quarter as the young star racked up 13 disposals and six clearances for the term in a physically assertive period that led to a three-goal run for his team. 

The highlight was a broken tackle as he was spun on the wing before lowering his eyes and finding teammate Liam Ryan, who set up the first of two consecutive goals for Jamie Cripps in the same pocket.

When Ryan converted inside the final minute of the quarter, the Eagles had a 14-point lead and were on top in clearances (26-17), contested ball (76-73) and inside 50s (25-22).


The game flipped again in the third term as Windhager went to Reid in an accountable role and kept the 19-year-old to two disposals for the quarter.

The Saints got on top in the contest as a result and kicked three consecutive goals, including a 50m set shot for Sinclair, which gave the visitors the lead again after the seventh lead change of an entertaining game.

The response came yet again as Ryan booted back-to-back goals to give the Eagles a five-point lead at the last change, and Cripps' third at the start of the fourth quarter gave them an 11-point lead and momentum.


The Saints showed great determination in the final term, however, to wrench back the advantage, kicking five of the last six goals to snag an impressive road win against an Eagles team that has been hard to beat in Perth.

Rising Star race gets interesting
Western Bulldogs forward Sam Darcy has been eliminated from the Rising Star field after a two-game suspension for rough conduct on Friday night, and Harley Reid is now under a cloud following a tackle on Darcy Wilson that will be assessed. Reid slung Wilson to ground on the wing, resulting in the speedster hitting his head. In Reid's favour, Wilson took his kick before being assessed on the bench. He was able to return, however, which will be factored in if he is charged. The race will be thrown wide open if Reid is eliminated, with Wilson himself along with North Melbourne pair George Wardlaw and Colby McKercher to be leading chances.


Dow steps up 
With Jack Steele kept stat-less in the first quarter by tagger Dom Sheed, and just three clearances in the first half, the Saints needed another midfielder to take charge in the centre square and fill his role. In his third game back from a knee injury, former Carlton onballer Paddy Dow was up to the job in an impressive performance that should give him significant confidence. Dow had a big presence in the game and was leading the Saints with 17 disposals and eight clearances at three-quarter time before a quieter finish. The Saints think the 24-year-old's best footy is ahead of him as he builds chemistry with his teammates, with potential he could be a bargain pick-up for the club if Saturday's form is repeated. 

A taste of freedom
Saturday's clash started with a live Eagle on the loose as pre-game mascot Auzzie the Eagle spent longer than planned doing its ceremonial laps of Optus Stadium. A feature of West Coast home games, Auzzie flew its planned laps inside the stadium and landed with its trainer before escaping and perching in multiple corners of the stands with fans as both teams ran out for their final on-ground warm-ups. On the loose for more than 10 minutes, Auzzie was finally contained with time to spare after some warnings from the ground announcer not to approach the eagle. 


WEST COAST      2.5   6.6   8.7   10.8 (68)
ST KILDA           1.2   4.4   7.8   12.10 (82)

West Coast: Ryan 3, Cripps 3, Darling 2, Gaff, B.Williams
St Kilda: Wood 4, King 2, Caminiti, Henry, Higgins, Membrey, Ross, Sinclair

West Coast: Yeo, Barrass, Cripps, Ginbey, Duggan, Ryan, Reid
St Kilda: Wood, Wanganeen-Milera, Windhager, Sinclair, Dow, Wilkie, Marshall

West Coast: Nil
St Kilda: King (knee)

West Coast: Jake Waterman (shoulder) replaced by Jack Williams
St Kilda: Nil

West Coast: Zane Trew (replaced J.Williams in the third quarter) 
St Kilda: Dan Butler (replaced King at three-quarter time)  

Crowd: 47,526 at Optus Stadium