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Match report: Dees keep Saints at bay

JLT Highlights: Melbourne v St Kilda The Demons and Saints clash in week three of the JLT Community Series

MELBOURNE has withstood an impressive comeback by St Kilda to pull away to a 26-point win at Casey Fields on Thursday night. 

The Demons showed why they could be a side on the rise in 2018 with their slick ball movement producing a barnstorming eight-goal first term and making the Saints look second rate. 

Full match coverage and stats

However, Alan Richardson's men turned it around in the third quarter, led by Blake Acres and Seb Ross, as Melbourne dropped its intensity and became too casual with the football at times.

But after briefly losing the lead in the third term, the Dees kicked away in the final quarter to seal the 18.11 (119) to 14.9 (93) victory. 

Any fears of a serious injury when St Kilda's triple best and fairest Jack Steven left the field in the third quarter were allayed when he was later seen walking under his own power, albeit with ice on his rolled left ankle.

'I'll be right': Star Saint allays ankle fears

He had been one of the more influential Saints up to that point, picking up 19 disposals.

WATCH: Jack Steven suffers ankle injury

Ross and Acres collected 29 and 28 disposals respectively while Shane Savage was excellent in the third quarter, with his pinpoint delivery helping St Kilda boot six goals to one in that term.

Star Melbourne onballer Clayton Oliver was his typical prolific self around the contest, picking up 27 possessions (16 contested) despite having Ross as a minder, but also showing he may have added another facet to his game with two goals.

WATCH: Oliver's awesome long bomb and celebration to match

He was one of 13 goalkickers for the Dees, a number that would have satisfied Simon Goodwin, while the Saints had 11 themselves. 

A dominant performance from Max Gawn brought back memories of his excellent 2016 as he notched up 18 disposals, 43 hit-outs and four contested marks. His impact was stifled slightly in the second half when a fresh Rowan Marshall came onto the ground after sitting out the opening two terms.  

Michael Hibberd maintained his All Australian form from last year and Jake Lever continued his seamless transition from Adelaide, having an impact in contests across the backline.

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For the Saints, last year's No.8 selection in the NAB AFL Draft Nick Coffield could not have done much more to earn a round one spot with a tidy display across half-back.

Jack Billings won 24 disposals while spending plenty of time in the midfield in another sign he will push further up the ground than he did last year, and was consistently dangerous on his left boot.

Tall forward Josh Bruce was rusty early but came to life in the third quarter, booting three goals and showing surer hands in marking contests than he had previously. 

Melbourne: The Demons can look incredible at times when they move the football from the back half but as they showed in the third term, they can become too cute, and St Kilda capitalised to kick six goals that quarter. There is no doubt Melbourne's list is packed with talent but it seems more experience is needed to better harness that ability. 

St Kilda: More quality ball users are needed. When the Saints were firing in the third term, Shane Savage was precise with his delivery and was involved in several scoring chains. However, they were wayward with their foot skills earlier in the contest and that wastefulness won't cut it in the home and away season. Poor delivery into the forward line hurts even more when the club plays three talls in attack, so St Kilda's kicking needs to be sharpened. 

Melbourne: It's pretty tough to see Bayley Fritsch missing out on round one. He has slotted in at half-forward and impressed with a pinpoint left boot. One play in the second quarter, when he collected the football cleanly and wheeled around to hit Max Gawn showcased how he can create chances for his teammates. Meanwhile, Jake Lever has slotted into the back six without fuss. His first half particularly was excellent and he will add leadership to a backline that can be shaky at times. 

Fritsch competes strongly for a mark. Picture: AFL Photos

St Kilda: Leigh Montagna's retirement opened up a spot at half-back and draftee Nick Coffield has capitalised. His poise to think through situations is exceptional for an 18-year-old and his kicking skills have been as good as advertised throughout the pre-season. Fellow first-round draft pick Hunter Clark was quieter on Thursday than he was against Carlton, finishing with eight disposals, but he showed hardness on several instances, such as when he went back with the flight to mark.

St Kilda begins its home and away campaign against Brisbane at Etihad Stadium on Saturday, March 24, while Melbourne faces Geelong the next day at the MCG.

MELBOURNE             8.4     11.5    12.8     18.11 (119)
ST KILDA                  4.1      6.4      12.7      14.9 (93) 

Melbourne: Oliver 2, Garlett 2, Brayshaw 2, Melksham 2, Hogan 2, Tyson, Petracca, Bugg, Hannan, Fritsch, Salem, Vince, Hunt
St Kilda: Bruce 3, Sinclair 2, Savage, Membrey, Clark, Billings, Armitage, McCartin, Steven, Gresham, Acres

Melbourne: Oliver, Gawn, Hibberd, Petracca, Lever, Hogan
St Kilda: Billings, Acres, Ross, Geary, Savage, Steele 

Melbourne: O.McDonald (back tightness)
St Kilda: Steven (rolled left ankle)

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Rosebury, Fleer, Mollison 

Official crowd: 4567 at Casey Fields