ESSENDON has snapped a four-game losing streak after outhustling a disappointing St Kilda in a 35-point victory at Marvel Stadium.
The Saints had won eight games so far this season to the Bombers' lowly two, but you wouldn't have picked it from the opening bounce of the 15.17 (107) to 11.6 (72) result, nor from the second-half acceleration after the Saints drew level.
SAINTS v BOMBERS Full match coverage and stats
After a flat effort against Carlton last week, Essendon was noticeably sharper in its pressure around the ground, catching St Kilda on the hop and forcing a number of forward-half turnovers.
By contrast, the Saints were messy entering attack, and unable to properly capitalise on the seven-centimetre height advantage Max King had on Jordan Ridley, with James Stewart on the bench as sub.
Integral Bombers midfielder Darcy Parish was sidelined with a badly corked calf, but Essendon was able to string together disposal chains by hand with ease in the first half.
St Kilda broke the emergency glass and sent Tim Membrey to defence halfway through the second quarter, which stemmed the bleeding somewhat, but robbed King of his partner-in-crime up forward.
Remarkably, the Saints were only three adrift in inside 50s and one ahead in clearances at the main break, despite being 28 points behind.
And finally, the on-field output started to match the statistics, the Saints coming out with menace and purpose, piling on five straight goals to tie the match up 15 minutes into the third term.
The Bombers of old (last week's edition) would have folded then and there, but Jake Stringer had other ideas, breaking free to kick 2.1 from nine disposals as the Bombers rattled on six straight of their own.
Jade Gresham did everything possible to get the Saints the win, while Josh Battle was impressive in defence and Bradley Hill busy off half-back.
Mason Redman had a career-high 31 disposals, providing plenty of creativity out of defence and Peter Wright provided a lovely full-stop on his 100th game, kicking the final two of his four goals in the last minute of the game.
A week after coach Ben Rutten said Jake Stringer had a poor game and the club needed more out of the senior player, the mercurial midfielder turned in a match-winning third term. With the game tied up, he converted a stunning shot from outside 50 – celebrating all the way to the interchange bench – before snapping truly from a stoppage minutes later.
Massimo's meteoric rise
At the end of May, Massimo D'Ambrosio was streaming off half-back for Richmond's VFL side, suffering a short-term shoulder injury on the eve of the NAB AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft. Just three weeks later, he was making his AFL debut, swapping the yellow sash for red. The 19-year-old looked comfortable at the top level in an undersized Bombers defence with 15 disposals and four rebound 50s.
Spud's Game. Time 2 Talk.
The start of the match was delayed by two minutes as the two sides and umpires came together to join arms in the centre of the ground. Essendon and St Kilda legends Tim Watson and Nathan Burke addressed the group, the crowd and the broadcast audience, urging everyone to take two minutes to talk to a mate about mental health in a moving address. The late, great Danny "Spud" Frawley would have been proud.
ST KILDA 2.1 3.3 8.4 11.6 (72)
ESSENDON 4.5 7.7 13.11 15.17 (107)
St Kilda: Gresham 3, Billings 2, Higgins 2, King, Marshall, Ryder, Long
Essendon: Wright 4, Jones 2, Stringer 2, Draper 2, Guelfi 2, Durham, Martin, Perkins
St Kilda: Gresham, Hill, Sinclair, Membrey, Battle
Essendon: Merrett, Redman, Shiel, Wright, Stringer
St Kilda: Nil
Essendon: Heppell (hand)
St Kilda: Marcus Windhager (unused)
Essendon: James Stewart (unused)
Crowd: 33,274 at Marvel Stadium