St Kilda coach Alan Richardson praised the resilience of his players after the Saints rebounded from a confidence-sapping AFL loss to stun Carlton by 32 points at Etihad Stadium.
The Blues went into Sunday’s clash having won six of their past seven games, but St Kilda bounced back from an 88-point hiding at the hands of Adelaide to hand Brendon Bolton’s men a harsh reality check – 17.8 (110) to 12.6 (78).
The hard-working Saints led at every break and held a game-high 47-point advantage early in the last quarter before easing to their fifth win of the season in front of a bumper crowd of 47,945 fans.
Richardson’s charges set upon their opposition relentlessly, something they failed to do against the Crows.
“To respond to what happened last week in the area that was so poor – our want to get after the opposition and put pressure on them,” Richardson replied when asked what pleased him most about the performance.
“Particularly in the second quarter. While the margin was created in the third our ability to really hunt and also defend really strongly and to be bold in the way that we defended was the most positive aspect.”
Richardson admitted his team had been too easily knocked off the way they want to attack games at times this season, but praised the way his players stuck to the task against the more-fancied Blues.
And his team did it all without inspirational skipper Nick Riewoldt and important defenders Sam Fisher and Sean Dempster.
Stand-in captain Jack Steven was brilliant with 25 possessions, three goals and eight score assists, with Seb Ross, Jack Newnes, Sam Gilbert and Jimmy Webster also important.
The Saints had 10 different goal kickers, led by former Swan Tim Membrey, who bagged an equal career-best five majors.
The Blues were also without skipper Marc Murphy but they had too many passengers in a largely lacklustre performance.
Ed Curnow worked hard for his 29 disposals in his 100th AFL game, young defender Sam Docherty continued to mount a case for his first All Australian nod, Kade Simpson was prominent and Levi Casboult and Andrew Walker each kicked three goals.
“There’s a few things that we need to improve on … we overused the ball far too much,” Bolton said.
“I thought we tried to be a little bit too pretty with the ball, particularly in the first quarter.
“By and large it was turnovers, overuse and centre bounces and that’s where you need to give St Kilda real credit because they came with pressure, they came with intensity and they forced that a lot.”
Both teams have their bye next week, the Blues going into their break with a 6-6 record and the Saints improving to 5-7.