ST KILDA'S finals hopes are on shaky ground after its losing run extended to three games with a lacklustre 51-point defeat to fellow top-eight contenders Sydney at the SCG on Saturday night.

The Saints, who had lost to Essendon and Brisbane in their past two games, struggled with their method and only managed four goals for the game, going down 12.11 (83) to 4.8 (32).

SWANS v SAINTS Full match coverage and stats

The meek nature of St Kilda's response after their shock loss to the Bombers, which coach Brett Ratten called a "reality check", will be a major concern for the finals hopefuls.

06:59 Mins
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Highlights: Sydney v St Kilda

The Swans and Saints clash in round 15

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Both sides came into the game with 8-5 records, with Sydney moving up to sixth with the win to boost their finals aspirations after a disappointing loss to Port Adelaide last round.

The defeat means St Kilda is ninth, but with Collingwood, Gold Coast and Port Adelaide – who all play on Sunday - breathing down its neck in the top-eight race. The Saints face current top-eight sides Carlton, Fremantle and the Western Bulldogs in their next three rounds.

00:28 Mins
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Speedy Florent kicks Swans clear

Oliver Florent showed off his speed with this classy finish extending his side's lead late in the third term

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Jake Lloyd produced a vintage display down back with a season-high 39 disposals and 478 metres gained, while Nick Blakey had 31 disposals with a game-high 560 metres gained.

Nomadic Swans ruckman Tom Hickey was brilliant upon his return from a toe injury in the absence of the suspended Peter Ladhams, with 22 disposals including seven clearances and 15 contested possessions as well as a late goal.

Ryan Clarke, who restricted Saints breakout star Jack Sinclair to 17 disposals, finished with two goals along with Tom Papley, while Isaac Heeney booted a game-high three majors.

00:28 Mins
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Clarke breaks the deadlock with ripping snap

Ryan Clarke broke through to kick the first goal of the game as he nailed this exceptional snap to give his side the early jump

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Saints captain Jack Steele was impressive on his return for the first time since sustaining an AC injury in round nine with 27 disposals and eight touches. Sebastian Ross (31 disposals) had plenty of footy but wasn't overly damaging, symbolic of St Kilda's issues.

The Saints struggled to score throughout the game, managing only two goals up until three quarter-time, one being a gift via a dubious 50m penalty for Tim Membrey as Max King (eight disposals, four marks and no goals) was shut down.

St Kilda's 2.6 at three-quarter time was the club's lowest tally to that point since 2014. Their final score was the lowest ever by a Ratten-coached side, while it was St Kilda's lowest ever against the Swans.

St Kilda players look dejected after the loss to Sydney in round 15, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Sydney held the visitors at arm’s length in the first half, with a 16-point half-time lead before blowing the game apart with a five-goal third term headlined by Papley's two goals, including the 200th of his career.

Sydney lesser lights shine
Callum Mills and Luke Parker have arguably been the leading contributors to Sydney's strong 2022, but both were below their usual standards, yet the Swans still controlled the game despite no glaring discrepancies among the team statistics with 388-373 possessions and 55-45 inside 50s. The likes of Oliver Florent (27 disposals and 12 marks), fresh from signing a two-year extension, and Dylan Stephens (23 disposals), who got a late call-up with Justin McInerney and Harry Cunningham out due to health and safety protocols, impressing. It was a good sign of the Swans' midfield depth.

Dylan Stephens in action during the R15 clash between Sydney and St Kilda at the SCG on June 25, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Saints pair in trouble?
Former Swan Zak Jones might come under Match Review Officer scrutiny for a head-high bump on Luke Parker in the first quarter. Parker, who only had eight disposals in the first half, seemed to spend several minutes on the bench after the incident but eventually played on. Jones may argue he simply braced for contact as Parker's momentum took him into the Saint under a tackle. Jimmy Webster left Tom Papley dazed for a moment with early sling tackle too, but the Swans livewire also continued on.

00:21 Mins
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Is Jones in trouble for this high bump?

Zak Jones may find himself in hot water with the MRO after this high bump on Luke Parker during the first term

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50m penalty confusion
St Kilda had a slice of fortune for its second goal, although the Swans will feel hugely aggrieved. Errol Gulden was harshly adjudged by the closest umpire to have entered the protected zone when Tim Membrey took a mark on the wing/half-forward flank despite appearing well clear of him. The decision allowed the Saints forward a set shot from 40m which he slotted. Gulden questioned the umpire, while the commentators were unclear too. It was likely just an umpiring error, but a confounding and costly one.

SYDNEY            3.1       4.6       9.10       12.11 (83)
ST KILDA           1.2       2.2       2.6     4.8 (32)

GOALS 
Sydney: Heeney 3, Clarke 2, Papley 2, Franklin, Florent, Hayward, Parker, Hickey
St Kilda: Butler, Membrey, Billings, Windhager

BEST 
Sydney: Lloyd, Hickey, Blakey, Papley, Florent, Franklin
St Kilda: Steele, Marshall, Ross, Wanganeen-Milera

INJURIES 
Sydney: Nil
St Kilda: Nil

SUBSTITUTES 
Sydney: Lewis Taylor (unused)
St Kilda: Darragh Joyce (unused)