Greater Western Sydney have seen off a stirring late charge from St Kilda to record a nine-point AFL win at Etihad Stadium.
The resurgent Saints managed to get to within seven points in the final term on Sunday but GWS, who led at every change, held on for the 12.15 (87) to 11.12 (78) victory.
The match ended in controversial circumstances with Nick Riewoldt stunned when Tom Bugg laid a heavy bump into the St Kilda skipper’s back in a marking contest 12 minutes into the last quarter.
Riewoldt, playing his first game since the death of his sister, lay prone on the turf for several minutes before leaving the ground under his own steam.
The match threatened to get away from the umpires in the minutes after with a melee erupting when Josh Bruce laid a late bump on Bugg.
It was a spiteful end to an entertaining encounter.
The Saints started brightly, with former Sydney forward Tim Membrey kicking his first AFL goal, but the Giants held their own in a see-sawing first term with five lead changes.
Dylan Shiel was outstanding early, with 11 of his 28 possessions coming in the opening quarter, while Adam Treloar (32 disposals), Lachie Whitfield (31) and Callan Ward (22) important cogs in the Giants’ midfield.
A five-point GWS lead at quarter-time would have been larger but for some wayward kicking, which continued into the second term.
The Giants had more than doubled St Kilda’s scoring shots – 16 to 7 – at halftime, but only held a 19-point lead.
Still, they looked ready to stamp their authority on the game with glimpses of lightning-quick ball movement, but the Saints showed impressive determination to hang in the contest.
Bruce provided a spark with a towering mark over a pack of Giants and, while he didn’t finish his good work with a goal, his side were within striking distance, 19 points in arrears, at three-quarter time.
Membrey added a second as the never-say-die Saints came roaring back with three unanswered goals before the match was stopped while Riewoldt received treatment.
The Saints kept coming when play resumed, but the Giants were able to steady with goals to Cam McCarthy and Shiel helping their side to the win.
Jack Steven led the way for St Kilda with 27 touches, with David Armitage (25) and Jarryn Geary (24) also important.