A FURIOUS Brett Ratten has come out firing after St Kilda's flat 35-point loss to Essendon, labelling the performance as "below par" and a "reality check".
The Saints were able to wipe out a half-time deficit of 28 points in the third term, but kicked just three goals while the Bombers piled on eight of their own for the remainder of the match.
"I think the third quarter probably flattered us a little bit, after getting a rocket we came back and showed a bit of fight. But by the end of the third, it was virtually even again for the quarter," Ratten said.
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"Just to lose contested ball by 23, which then fuels the uncontested ball, that was as hard to watch for a while that we've been involved in. Especially with where we're at as a group, in the game and what it meant to us in regards to Spud's Game, that was really below par.
"Execution by foot, three v one and we miss a target, we squandered so many opportunities, and then you look on the other side of the coin, and say 38 tackles for a game isn't where we're at. That, defensively, is unacceptable.
"We conceded 61 inside 50s, and good luck trying to win games of footy when you concede that much."
Ratten said he didn't see the poor performance coming and refused to use a shorter break and travel as a "cop out".
"I think it's a reality check for our players, you're never as good as you think you are, and you're never as bad as you think you are, and tonight's performance was very, very bad," he said.
"When you look at all aspects of the game, we halved clearance aspects by the end, but some of the spread and use and defence, the combination of the game, we were below par in nearly every aspect.
"Then trying to work out did we actually have a winner on the ground, a clear winner, I'd say (Josh) Battle was nearly the only one. Outside of that it was Essendon everywhere.
"We carried so many in the first half, and even by the end of the day, you look at the performance of players and they had not just below par performances, but really below par.
"I think the part about the tough draw (Sydney, Carlton and Fremantle to come), it's all tough. And whoever plays us it's going to be tough, hopefully, back the other way. Everyone talks about what we've got, what about what the opposition has too? But I will say, what we dished out today, I don't think they'll be too scared, will they?"
Ratten also confirmed Category B rookie Josiah Kyle had retired, and that skipper Jack Steele will return next week from a shoulder injury.
"Josiah has stepped away from AFL football. He went away on the break to have a think about it, and has decided the rigours of AFL footy isn't for him, so he's just going to play at local level," Ratten said.
"Fantastic person and we'll put a few things around to support him in the short-term, and we wish him well."
Essendon counterpart Ben Rutten was especially pleased with his side's composure in the face of St Kilda's comeback.
"I think our effort's been there for a while, and just to get a bit of belief and confidence for the work we've been putting in," Rutten said.
"When I talk about the effort, it's the effort through the week as well, the guys have been really good Monday to Friday, so it was nice tonight to get a bit of reward on the scoreboard.
"I think it might have been five goals in a row against us, but we walked away winning the quarter. I think the maturity, the guys kept some cool heads out there.
"The feedback I was getting on the bench from the guys, they were clear on what was happening, we weren't getting our hands on the ball, they were a little bit sloppy at times. They were able to identify that, but the most pleasing part, they did something about it."
Jake Stringer was instrumental in Essendon's response in the second half of the third term, a week after Rutten had said his performance had been poor.
"I thought he responded and was back to the Jake we know. What I loved most about his game, I think he had six tackles, 50-odd pressure points, that's Jake at his best," Rutten said.
"We know if he's got the game involvement, he attends more centre bounces, he's in the game, pressuring and competing, it's not a problem when he gets his hands on the ball."