Ryder sends ‘classy’ St Kilda to win; Two-edged sword of cats, wounded Saint fears: 3-2-1

St Kilda recorded an impressive 10-point win over Geelong on Saturday, with Paddy Ryder back at his best with three goals.

The Saints exploded in the third term, kicking seven goals to two to set up the 13.12 (90) to 11.14 (80) win.

The defeat puts Geelong’s win-lose pattern in place since Round 4 continues, following last week’s win over GWS.

Despite looking “a little crazy” in the opening term, St Kilda continued to find a way to score as striker duo Max King and Tim Membrey finished with four goals between them.

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MATCH REPORT

St Kilda had a perfect start against the Cats as big man Paddy Ryder won a free kick for ruck block and made no mistake with his shot on target.

But Geelong’s Tom Hawkins had the answer right away after the Cats won the midrange and the ball went back to Hawkins.

“Just brute force,” commentator Jordan Lewis said.

“That’s just too easy.”

Fox Footy’s Jonathan Brown said the early goal against Hawkins would be a concern for St Kilda coaching staff.

“Four goals they got against Melbourne from the center. They have already admitted one today,” he said.

While St Kilda looked “a little crazy” in the first term, Isaac Smith took full advantage as the Cats moved through the corridor and he was able to score a goal on the run.

“If the opposition gives them something, they will take it,” Brown said.

“Last week in Geelong we looked at the 143 mark they had, and we thought they might go back to that old style, but I don’t think they are.

“They’re happy to push it forward.”

Max King was able to give St Kilda their second in the free-flowing clash, but Gryan Miers added Geelong’s fourth and suddenly there were more concerns for the Saints.

“As for Brett Ratten, the ease with which Geelong moves it from end to end. Fifty percent of the time they move it to their front line (straight from the attack end of St Kilda),” said Brown.

Geelong ruckman Rhys Stanley was an early injury concern as he went into the chambers in the first term.

He emerged a short time later and was seen walking along the sidelines, but didn’t get back into the game until after the break.

That caused Mark Blicavs to ruck solo again – as he did in the round 8 win at GWS.

“(Geeong’s midfielders) get right into that hit zone. Yes, they lose most of those faucets, but their cleanup work was top-notch,” Lewis praised in Stanley’s absence.

The Saints were able to stop the Cats’ run in the second term and even managed to increase the number of cleanups.

Rowan Marshall made up for a marker blooper on the wing to kick the first of his set for term, and Jade Gresham had a chance to close the gap further when he won a free kick with the ball.

But as with the first term, the Saints couldn’t let Geelong pay for their mistakes.

A mid-ground turnover ended with Cam Guthrie alone outside 50.

And he made no mistake in flight, as teammate Hawkins made sure to put the bodywork on the line to let the ball sail through.

“The cats can use that open hallway. (St Kilda) turned it around at the wing… and then they just attack,” said Brown.

“(Hawkins) just pushed (his opponent) out of the way, knew it would wear.”

Lewis said Guthrie’s play was the difference between the two sides in the first half.

“If St Kilda turned the ball around, they went straight into traffic. Geelong went to the open side. Give yourself some scoring opportunities,” he said.

St Kilda lost to Jack Higgins late in the second quarter on a solid punch from Cat Jake Kolodjashnij, with Higgins being knocked out of the game with a concussion.

Teammate Jack Steele got off the ground a short time later and grabbed his shoulder after a tough tackle over the sideline.

At halftime, the Saints were 16 points behind.

But it was another St Kilda to come forward in the third term, when the Cats’ center dominance suddenly came to an end.

Instead of the Cats using it first, it was Jade Gresham who got their hands on it.

After Hawkins pushed Geelong to a 21-point lead early in the third game, St Kilda kicked five goals to take the lead.

Zak Jones was the first to score “against the course of the game,” before Cooper Sharman added another.

When Ben Long kicked his first of the day, Geelong couldn’t stop the Saints’ attack from the middle.

“Their high forwards get up during the match and then take off,” Brown praised.

“They ran really fast. Suddenly you don’t see the reserve Geelong defenders anymore”

Jack Billings gave St Kilda the lead before Mason Wood extended their lead, after a 20 to nine in a 50 count.

Sharman could have pushed the lead out further late in the third, but pushed his shot wide. Tim Membrey made no mistake after the three-quarter time siren to ensure the Saints had a 16-point lead at the final substitution.

After 45 minutes of spraying coach Chris Scott, the Cats came out firing. Tom Hawkins hit the post before Dan McKenzie coughed it up to Hawkins, who made no mistake on his second attempt.

When Hawkins got his second for term moments later, the Cats were closed to within three.

But a moment of confusion in the Geelong defense, which ended with Paddy Ryder alone and players pointing and looking at each other, ended the Cats’ run.

Ryder added his third to recapture their 15-point lead, while Jonathan Brown praised the Saints’ changed approach to coming forward.

“They didn’t just go in a straight line and give the Geelong defenders a chance to line up,” said Brown.

Despite a late score to Jeremy Cameron, St Kilda held out for their sixth win of the season.

THE 3-2-1 … (With David Zita)

3. STUNNING THIRD TERM SAINTS

Trailing at half time and about to fall too far behind, the Saints turned things around in the third quarter, posing a real threat to the top four.

Seven goals and four behinds marked the Saints’ highest scoring quarter since Round 16, 2017 against Richmond. That match resulted in a stunning victory for Saints, but turned out to be a false dawn of sorts for the side.

Regardless of the end result, the Saints should be happy to at least be able to take it to fellow contenders on their day.

Three quarters of the time, the Saints had a 16-point lead after trailing by that margin at halftime.

In addition, the squad led disposals with 51, disputed possession with 14, clearances with seven and in-50s with 11. They were knocked out on the scoreboard by Melbourne last week but still showed signs they could match it with the Dees for stages.

It may still be a little sporadic from the saints, but the signs are there good and real.

2. DOUBLE SIDE SWORD RETURN OF CATS

Last week was a fascinating case study for the Cats, who opted for a more possession-intensive and conservative way of playing football. Coach Chris Scott said he was proud of the squad’s ability to win against adversity with some late changes that toppled the squad before it finally won convincingly.

Geelong was heading for this year’s openness to a more risky and attacking style of play as the side looked set to break through for that elusive flag in life with stars Patrick Dangerfield and Jeremy Cameron.

After such a convincing win with that old method, it would be tempting to return to it in the future.

Instead, they once again played with flair and a willingness to take the gait in a move that, at least until halftime, seemed to pay off.

“Geelong moved the ball way too easily from their defensive 50 to their forward 50 very early in the game. They took advantage of the corridor,” said Jonathan Brown at halftime.

The problem with such an attacking style of play, however, is that it exposes the defense when not firing on all cylinders. It happened in the third term against St Kilda and it is not the first time this season that they have awarded an alarming run of scores.

The Cats will be at least one of eight at the end of the round and possibly two, depending on the results. This will be the ultimate test for Chris Scott and the coaching group to stay on track with this new method or return to the old one and risk suffering the same final fate they have endured for the better part of a decade.

1. HIGGINS’ HORROR RUN CONTINUES

That’s two concussions in five weeks for Jack Higgins, which is pretty much the only thing stopping him from becoming the best little striker in the game.

He was eliminated in the second quarter on a punch by Jake Kolodjashnij.

After a scoreless opening round, Higgins had kicked 16 goals from six games, making him a dominant scoring source that worked perfectly with Max King.

Having undergone two brain surgeries in 2019 after complaining of headaches and blurred vision during competitions, there should be some concern about his health and how to proceed with his recovery.

Despite the end result, there was still some skepticism about whether Kolodjashnij should be suspended.

“It didn’t look like there was much in it,” said Jonathan Brown. “On the face of it, he would be unlucky to get a week-long suspension for that.”

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