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Match report: Steely Saints scrape past Blues

Highlights: St Kilda v Carlton The Saints and Blues clash in round eight
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 13:  Jack Billings of the Saints celebrates kicking a goal during the round eight AFL match between the St Kilda Saints and the Carlton Blues at Etihad Stadium on May 13, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images/AFL Media)
Saint Jack Billings was the star of the show with five goals

ST KILDA has outlasted a plucky Carlton at Etihad Stadium on Saturday, overcoming a final-quarter deficit to claim a see-sawing contest by 19 points. 

The Saints looked to have broken the Blues' resistance when they kicked the first three goals of the second half to lead by 24 points midway through the third term. 

Full match coverage and stats

But Carlton fought back and hit the front when Patrick Cripps goaled at the five-minute mark of the final term, when an upset looked a distinct possibility. 

However, the Saints found an extra gear with their run, kicking the final three goals to secure a 12.13 (85) to 10.6 (66) victory that consolidated their position in the top eight.  

Five talking points: St Kilda v Carlton

Jack Billings was the star for the Saints in his 50th game, kicking a career-high five goals from 30 possessions, but the Blues threatened to ruin his milestone for much of Saturday.

After Billings kicked his final goal midway through the third term, Carlton kicked three unanswered goals in the quarter's dying minutes to go into the final break just five points down.

WATCH: Billings' five-star breakout

Cripps' last-quarter goal gave the Blues the lead and seemingly the momentum. 

But Seb Ross goaled on the run to reclaim the lead for the Saints five minutes later and a Josh Bruce goal soon after stretched St Kilda's break to 12 points at the 13-minute mark.

Jack Steele sealed the win with the game's final goal at the 20-minute mark.

Ross (31 possessions and two goals) again enhanced his reputation as one of the competition's emerging midfielders, while Jack Steven (31 possessions and nine clearances) and Jack Newnes (33 possessions) were also influential through the midfield. 

Jake Carlisle was a steadying influence in the Saints' backline, while skipper Jarryn Geary and Jack Sinclair also defended resolutely.

St Kilda coach Alan Richardson said he had expected Carlton would be hard to score against, and was pleased his team had been able to find a way to win. 

"We went into the game knowing that it was going to be a challenge. They've defended really strongly, Carlton, for most of the year and their last two weeks have been really impressive," Richardson said. 

"They've been able to strangle teams and we spoke about that – that this won't be a pretty game – (and) we'll get a lot of opportunities (and) we'll just have to persist.

"We have probably been able to get the game on our terms to some extent the last couple of weeks, (but) we weren't today and to find a way late was really positive."

Sam Docherty (26 possessions and 11 marks) was outstanding for the Blues in defence, taking several contested marks any key-position player would have been proud of. 

Cripps (30 possessions, eight clearances and two goals) and Marc Murphy (28 possessions and two goals) kept the Blues in the game with their mix of grunt and class through the midfield.

Key defenders Sam Rowe and Alex Silvagni were instrumental in nullifying the Saints' marking power in attack, while Matthew Kreuzer battled manfully in the ruck. 

Blues coach Brendon Bolton took plenty of positives out of the game, but said his team would have to learn from its lack of composure at crucial stages in the final quarter. 

"There was quite a bit (to like) in there. I thought there were some significant momentum swings in that game. That's the nature of AFL footy: you need to try and keep winning the arm wrestle when it's your turn and when the opposition have their go you've got to try and limit that," Bolton said. 

"There was a bit of that going on in the game. There were a few plays we didn't quite complete that may have helped us with momentum, but that's all a work in progress."

Carlton kicked the game's opening goal when Jacob Weitering marked at point-blank range, although the young Blue appeared lucky not to be penalised for a shove in Saints defender Jimmy Webster's back.

The Saints hit back soon after with four unanswered goals in nine minutes – the first two through Billings – to race to a 20-point lead midway through the term. 

St Kilda had 20 inside 50s for the quarter to the Blues' six, but struggled to capitalise, taking just four marks inside its forward 50. 

As wasteful as the Saints were, the Blues were highly efficient on the counter-punch.  

A pinpoint Lachie Plowman kick into the corridor started the possession chain that led to Jack Silvagni's first goal at the 17-minute mark. It was the first of three consecutive Carlton goals – the last was also kicked by Silvagni – which helped send the Blues into quarter-time just three points down. 

Billings kicked his third goal early in the second term to stretch the Saints' lead to nine points, but Carlton hit the lead by four points midway through the quarter after two clever Marc Murphy goals.

Shortly before Murphy's second goal, Blues defender Alex Silvagni thwarted a likely St Kilda major with a desperate run-down tackle on Jade Gresham.

Billings put the Saints back in front by two points when he kicked his fourth goal at the 23-minute mark.

Three minutes later, Cripps botched a golden chance to reclaim the lead for the Blues when he played on after marking 15m out from goal – in an attempt to handball to Matthew Wright in the goalsquare – and was pinged in a tackle by St Kilda captain Geary. 

A late behind by Steele sent the Saints into the main break four points up.

St Kilda: Defender Jimmy Webster came from the ground early in the first quarter to have his right hand assessed in the rooms. He appeared at the Saints' quarter-time huddle with his hand heavily strapped and spent the rest of the game on the interchange bench. Saints coach Alan Richardson said after the game Webster had suffered a broken hand and was expected to be unavailable until after the Saints' round 11 bye. Jake Carlisle left the ground late in the third term after appearing to cop a knock to the groin. The key defender started the final quarter on the bench but returned soon after.

Carlton: The Blues appeared to emerge with a clean bill of health.

The Saints host Sydney at Etihad Stadium next Saturday, having lost their past six clashes against the Swans. Carlton travels to Perth to take on Fremantle next Sunday, but should take confidence from its win over the Dockers at Domain Stadium in round five last season.

ST KILDA    4.3   6.5   9.8   12.13   (85)
CARLTON   4.0   6.1   9.3   10.6     (66)

St Kilda: Billings 5, Ross 2, Bruce 2, Membrey, Riewoldt, Steele
Carlton: J. Silvagni 2, Murphy 2, Cripps 2, Weitering, C. Curnow, Williamson, Gibbs 

St Kilda: Billings, Ross, Carlisle, Newnes, Steven, Dunstan
Carlton: Murphy, Cripps, A. Silvagni, Docherty, Rowe, Kreuzer 

St Kilda: Jimmy Webster (broken hand), Jake Carlisle (groin)
Carlton: Nil

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Foot, Margetts, Meredith

Official crowd: 38,014