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Match report: Bruce shines for Saints, Blues fail to fire again

JLT: Highlights: Blues v Saints The Blues and Saints clash in week 3 of the JLT Community Series.
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 4: Josh Bruce of the Saints is congratulated by Jack Sinclair and his teammates after kicking a goal during the AFL 2017 JLT Community Series match between the Carlton Blues and the St Kilda Saints at Ikon Park on March 4, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Scott Barbour/AFL Media)
Josh Bruce (left) dominated the Blues' backline in St Kilda's thumping win

ST KILDA'S rising expectations in 2017 gathered momentum on Saturday, with Josh Bruce booting seven goals in a 92-point win over Carlton at Ikon Park. 

With the Blues choosing to rest their better players and testing their youth, the Saints powered to an easy 0.18.14 (122) to 0.4.6 (30) win to remain undefeated in the JLT Community Series. 

Full match coverage and stats

Pegged as one of the competition's rising teams this season, St Kilda showcased a big-bodied midfield that bullied the younger Blues, who were disappointing for the second-straight week.

Bruce dominated in attack, but the contrast between the teams was starkest in the midfield, where the Saints have been bolstered by hard-bodied recruit Jack Steele (25 possessions and two goals). 

The former Greater Western Sydney on-baller was instrumental in getting the ball going his team's way, while young Saint Jack Billings (30) continued an excellent pre-season that has him primed for a big year. 

It was Bruce, however, who would have thrilled Saints' fans most after a quiet one-goal opening to the pre-season competition last week against Port Adelaide.

"He contributed well, and that was on the back of a lot of our defensive work," stand-in coach Aaron Hamill said after taking the reins from Alan Richardson on Saturday.

"He contributes in many ways for us and he's a product of hard work, so it doesn't surprise me that he gets those results."

While Bruce bounced back to form in a big way in a productive afternoon, fellow tall forward Paddy McCartin pushed up the ground and finished with 12 marks and 18 possessions.  

In defence, Jake Carlisle anchored a backline that pressed aggressively and continued to settle in nicely alongside recruit Nathan Brown.    

Carlton chose to rest top-line players Marc Murphy, Bryce Gibbs, Kade Simpson and Sam Docherty, while young star Patrick Cripps played reduced minutes in his first pre-season game.

Big loss won't shake Bolton

Still, the Blues' ball use and inability to stand up to the Saints' relentless defensive pressure should be a concern as they fumbled their way to a heavy defeat.

Brendon Bolton's team was also undisciplined, giving away crucial free kicks in the forward half and 50m penalties that resulted in easy goals. 


"We're not going to be locked away on wins and losses … but I will say we'll challenge standards," Bolton said.

"There's some young kids who couldn't hold on for more than a quarter and a half today, but we'll challenge them to do that.

"For them to get better, we need to expose them to develop them. Within that, we will challenge (the things) they need to improve on."

The Blues will need to assess injuries to Dylan Buckley, who injured a hip in the early minutes, and Charlie Curnow, who showed exciting glimpses in the midfield before a shoulder concern.

A drama-free return for Cripps, after a three-month recovery from a back injury, was a positive, as was the persistence of Jacob Weitering.

The Saints, who were without Nick Riewoldt and new captain Jarryn Geary, blooded their first pick from the 2016 NAB AFL Draft, Ben Long, who played the second half and converted a nice set shot.


Carlton: The Blues will struggle to kick competitive scores if they move the ball from defence like they did on Saturday. Too often the young side tried to hit short targets around the boundary, often finding themselves pinned deep in the pocket. It's a recipe for disaster against a high-pressing, high-pressure team like St Kilda, and the result was carnage. Sam Docherty will return against Fremantle and make a difference with the bounce out of defence, but the instinct to go wide will need to be adjusted.  

St Kilda: The Saints may have one of the biggest midfields in the competition after adding Jack Steele (187cm and 88kg) and Koby Stevens (189cm and 88kg), building an engine room with finals-type muscle. Alongside Blake Acres and Seb Ross they look imposing, despite their youth, and complement the dash of Jack Steven and Jack Billings. The Saints' midfielders won the clearances 38-24 on Saturday, but the group will get a better test of their credentials against Sydney in the final week of the pre-season.      

Carlton: New draftee Harrison Macreadie was the pick of the new faces, showing composure while under siege as a tall defender and finishing with 13 possessions. Cameron Polson showcased his speed and had seven possessions on reduced game time, while fellow draftee Tom Williamson won 10 possessions across half-back. American ruckman Matt Korcheck played his first game and was aggressive in the centre square, but clearly still adjusting to the game.

St Kilda: The Saints unveiled Ben Long, their first pick in last year's NAB AFL Draft, playing the midfielder in the second half on reduced minutes. He was smooth-moving and used the ball well with his seven possessions, converting a set shot in the fourth quarter. Father-son selection Bailey Rice, the son of Carlton premiership player and former Saint Dean Rice, was also blooded, finishing with nine possessions. 

Carlton has a six-day break and is preparing to play its best team against Fremantle at Domain Stadium next Friday night, welcoming back captain Marc Murphy and midfielder Bryce Gibbs among others. The Saints face Sydney in Albury and are expected to select champion Nick Riewoldt and captain Jarryn Geary.

CARLTON     0.2.2     0.3.3    0.3.4       0.4.6 (30)
ST KILDA     0.4.2     0.8.4    0.14.10   0.18.14 (122)

Carlton: Nil
St Kilda: Nil 

Carlton: C Curnow, Graham, Cunningham, Kerridge
St Kilda: Bruce 7, Wright 2, Steele 2, Sinclair, Minchington, Newnes, Long, Gresham, Dunstan, McCartin 

Carlton: Weitering, Kerridge, White, Marchbank  
St Kilda: Bruce, Steele, Billings, Steven, McCartin, Longer, Webster

Carlton: Buckley (hip), C.Curnow (shoulder)
St Kilda: Nil 

Reports: Nil

Umpires: DeBoy, Chamberlain, Butcher, Williamson