25 March 2011
AFTER leading for most of the game, St Kilda has gone down to Geelong by one point in a low-scoring yet thrilling affair at the MCG.
The Cats were outplayed for large periods of the dour contest, but sprang into life with a three-goal burst late in the third quarter that set up an enthralling final term.
St Kilda edged back in front back with just under five minutes remaining and desperately clung to that advantage until the final minute.
A turnover in the middle of the ground ended with a long ball deep inside Geelong's attacking 50 that spilled to Cam Mooney who flipped it over the top for Milburn to set up the 6.12 (48) to 6.11 (47) final score.
It was a result that looked anything but likely for most of the first two-and-a-half quarters of the game as the Saints' stifling pressure made Geelong appear hesitant in its ball movement with multiple turnovers resulting.
Goals to Nick Riewoldt and Brendon Goddard were rare highlights in a first quarter that was held up for several minutes when Joel Selwood was knocked unconscious in a nasty clash with Farren Ray.
Milburn was substituted on for the courageous Cat who was stretchered off and sent to Epworth hospital for precautionary scans despite regaining consciousness on the field.
Despite their ascendancy, the Saints never got out to more than a 21-point lead and they were left to rue missed opportunities when Joel Corey scored his side's second goal 23 minutes into the third term.
David Wojcinski added another within 30 seconds and when youngster Mitch Duncan out-muscled Stephen Baker to add his second of the night the deficit was just one point at three-quarter time.
A Jimmy Bartel wonder goal early in the last put the Cats in front for the first time. Despite Lenny Hayes' brilliant work to claw back the lead, it wasn't to be St Kilda's night.
Jimmy Bartel (27 possessions and a goal) switched between midfield and forward and worked hard all night with occasional flashes of brilliance. He produced one of the few highlights when he threw the ball on his left boot as he was chased across the boundary line by Raphael Clarke for a stunning goal.
Lenny Hayes (29 possessions and a goal) was St Kilda's best player with his poise a rare commodity late when several of his teammates lost their cool under pressure.
What it means
It would be fair to say the Saints aren't going to fall off the perch. Ross Lyon's men showed every ounce of grit and determination that made them a force over the past few years and will be there or thereabouts again.
St Kilda: Richmond (MCG), Essendon (Etihad Stdium), Bye, Brisbane Lions (Gabba)
What the coach said:
Ross Lyon (St Kilda)
"I was really proud of our effort. It was going to be interesting to see our attitude to playing real football again, and I thought it was first class, to be honest. I don't think anyone could question our endeavours and our hardness and our pressure.
The turning point came in the 23-minute mark of the third quarter when Joel Corey was able to throw aside the goalkicking woes that had dogged both teams all night and convert a tricky set shot tho spark a three-goal run that sliced the margin to a point at three-quarter time.
Key match up
Most at the ground were surprised to see Tom Lonergan and not Harry Taylor trot up to Nick Riewoldt just before the first bounce. The match-up didn't look to advantage the Cats early as the Saints' skipper got on top, but his influence waned as the match progressed.
Geelong 0.4 1.7 4.10 6.12 (48)
St Kilda 2.5 2.9 4.11 6.11 (47)
Geelong: Duncan 2, Corey, Wojcinski, Bartel, Milburn
St Kilda: Riewoldt, Goddard, Gamble, Clarke, McEvoy, Hayes
Geelong: Bartel, Enright, Taylor, Duncan, Kelly, Corey, Wojcinski
St Kilda: Hayes, Dal Santo, Montagna, Gram, Fisher, Riewoldt
Geelong: Selwood (concussion)
St Kilda: Nil
Umpires: Chamberlain, Ryan, Pannell
Official crowd: 42,869 at the MCG
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