Jade Gresham celebrates a goal during the round 16 clash between West Coast and St Kilda on July 2, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

ST KILDA was ambushed by a ferocious West Coast on Sunday but stood up late to escape with a crucial eight-point road win at Optus Stadium in an entertaining clash that threatened to produce the upset of the season. 

With a foothold in the top eight on the line for the Saints, and the Eagles playing for respect and potentially careers, the match became a thrilling high-stakes battle with a difference.

St Kilda was forced to come from 31 points down in the second quarter to secure the important win, eventually prevailing 12.13 (85) to 12.5 (77) after a nail-biting final term.

EAGLES v SAINTS Full match coverage and stats

The win came at a cost, however, with the Saints left nursing injuries after defender Josh Battle (concussion) was ruled out early in the match and midfielder Brad Hill (knee) left the ground late with trainers.


Exciting young forward Mitch Owens was the difference for the visitors with four goals, including the only goal of the final term, which proved critical.

Ruckman Rowan Marshall (26 disposals and eight clearances), midfielder Brad Crouch (26 and seven clearances) and half-back Jack Sinclair (30 and five inside 50s) were all influential.


They might not have expected the spirited Eagles team they encountered after last week's 171-point loss to Sydney, and were made to earn the important win from start to finish. 

Indeed, West Coast entered this match having not won any quarter since the third term against Gold Coast in round nine, losing 21 on the trot as their season lurched from low to new low.


That streak ended on Sunday, however, as the home team responded to last week's humiliation with one of their best and most ferocious quarters of football this season.

Captain Luke Shuey set the tone with eight tackles and his teammates followed, applying relentless pressure to the visitors and riding a wave of momentum to make their intentions for the day clear.

Small forward Noah Long provided the early highlight when he used one hand to guide a brilliant checkside goal through from the boundary, with the Eagles celebrating every effort with enthusiasm.


When Jamie Cripps slotted his set shot in his first game since round three, the Eagles had a seven-point quarter-time lead and reason to believe in an unthinkable upset.

Belief turned to expectation in the second quarter as West Coast showed no sign of relenting, kicking four consecutive goals to open a match-high 31-point lead.


The defensive efforts of Tom Barrass were outstanding, while the Eagles settled into a deliberately controlled game style and took 43 marks to 13 as the Saints flooded numbers back.

Two late goals from young St Kilda forward Anthony Caminiti proved crucial in controlling the margin before half-time, and the visitors were able to make their move in the third term.


They matched the Eagles' pressure through the hard-tackling Crouch, took more risks with the ball, and started forcing turnovers in the front half rather than folding back.

The Eagles responded with an impressive patch of their own, with impressive draftee Elijah Hewett hitting a contest at pace and snapping a terrific goal that restored the margin to 21 points.


General play was on the Saints' terms, however, and they capitalised with late goals that set up a thrilling final term, with the Eagles clinging to a one-point lead at the final change.

Missed chances in the final quarter hurt both teams, with Owens' goalsquare goal in the opening minute the only major of the term.

Cripps had a set shot in the final minute that could have set up a grandstand final centre bounce, but he sent his shot wide as the Saints escaped with the critical points. 

Jamie Cripps reacts after missing a late shot at goal during the round 16 clash between West Coast and St Kilda on July 2, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Eagles get standing ovation, rather than boycott
There was talk during the week among Eagles fans of a first-quarter boycott to send a message to the club's decision makers that they wanted change. If there was a boycott it wasn't as noticeable as the standing ovation the team received at quarter time. West Coast fans have remained incredibly loyal this season and continued to turn out in large numbers. Sunday's crowd of 35,579 was the lowest home attendance this season, but those who showed up were rewarded with the most spirited performance of the season, which has the potential to re-shape the mood and outlook around the club.    

Eagles fans applaud during the round 16 clash between West Coast and St Kilda on July 2, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Progress but no tonne for low-scoring Saints  
St Kilda hasn't scored 100 points or more since round four and had hit 80 points just once in their eight games leading into Sunday. It's been a frustrating month for the team, but there was progress at stages in the second half with some daring ball movement and an ability to hold the ball in their front half for longer. They cracked 80 points early in the final term but couldn't go on to raise the bat after the game tightened up, kicking the second lowest score of any team against West Coast this season.

Brad Crouch rides a missed shot at goal during the round 16 clash between West Coast and St Kilda on July 2, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Illness leaves the Eagles' cupboard bare
After star midfielder Tim Kelly and youngster Luke Edwards succumbed to illness pre-game, the Eagles were left with only 25 fit players on their list. Young ruckman Harry Barnett became their substitute, and Category B rookies Tyrell Dewar and Jordyn Baker – whose AFL readiness is questionable – represented their only depth players not in action on Sunday. It made their effort to push the Saints all the more meritorious.


WEST COAST        4.1   9.2   12.2   12.5 (77)
ST KILDA                3.0   5.2   11.7   12.13 (85)  

West Coast: Allen 2, Hewett 2, Maric 2, Cripps, Darling, Long, Petruccelle, B.Williams, J.Williams
St Kilda: Owens 4, Camaniti 2, Butler 2, King, Higgins, Gresham, Wood 

West Coast: Shuey, Barrass, Hurn, Duggan, Sheed, B Williams
St Kilda: Marshall, Crouch, Owens, Sinclair, Gresham, Steele  

West Coast: Darling (shoulder)
St Kilda: Battle (concussion), Hill (knee)

West Coast: Tim Kelly and Luke Edwards (both illness) replaced in the selected side by Ryan Maric and Xavier O'Neill
St Kilda: Nil

West Coast: Harry Barnett (replaced Jack Darling in the fourth quarter)
St Kilda: Cooper Sharman (replaced Josh Battle in the second quarter)

Crowd: 35,579 at Optus Stadium