The past fortnight has shown St Kilda’s young AFL side what is possible when it is on and the inevitable penalty when it isn’t.
Saturday’s Anzac Day match against Carlton in Wellington will show how well they have learned their lesson.
The Saints were outstanding in round two, hounding Gold Coast with relentless pressure and scoring an upset away win.
But two six-day breaks, plus the hardness of Collingwood stars Scott Pendlebury and Dane Swan last Friday night proved too much to overcome.
The Magpies took a hold of the Saints after quarter-time and monstered them by 74 points.
“Our pressure was probably there last week, (but) our tackles got broken a lot. They were able to break through us then offload the ball,” said acting captain Jarryn Geary.
“Against the Gold Coast, we were able to stop them in that regard – they weren’t able to break our tackles and go forward.”
The smaller size of Wellington’s Westpac Stadium means there will be more stoppages – another area where the Saints were found wanting against the ‘Pies.
“Whether it was the boys were a little bit tired, whether it was when the rain set in, the bigger bodies and the experience of Swan and Pendlebury, we got smashed in the middle,” said coach Alan Richardson.
“That presents an enormous challenge – Carlton have been really positive with stoppages. I think they were plus-23 against the Bombers.
“We just have to make sure we’re much stronger in there.
“That was really the difference between the two performances.”
The Saints scored a midfield boost when Blues star Chris Judd was ruled out with a tight back.
But they also are missing captain Nick Riewoldt, Leigh Montagna and Maverick Weller because of injury.
It is an even-money game, with the Saints 1-2 and Carlton yet to win this season.
Geary said the eight-day gap since the Collingwood loss had allowed them to prepare properly for the Anzac Day clash.
“We were able to have a couple of good solid sessions with high intensity, plenty of tackling and collision football; blokes putting their head over the ball and controlling the ball before they got rid of it,” he said.
“We’ve got to put that in place this week.”