‘Reality check’: Rats squirt Saints after Dons ruins Spud’s Game with upset win

Ratten said it was as bad a performance as the Saints have put in since he took the reins in 2019. He said Josh Battle was the only clear winner from his team.

“I think it’s a reality check for your players,” Ratten said. “You’re never as good as you think you are, you’re never as bad as you think you are, and tonight’s performance was really, really bad.

“If you look at all aspects of the game, yes, by the end we probably cut the approval numbers in half. Some of the spread, use of the ball, defense and combination of the game, we were below par in almost every aspect.

“Probably because I didn’t see it coming, that stung our coaching group the most. Our ability to be consistent across all phases of the game has been really good.

“We haven’t been perfect. If we have a misstep, maybe it’s only for a quarter or a patch. Today it was 10 minutes, half a quarter of an hour for almost the entire game.”

The Dons, who have suffered four consecutive losses, have steadily improved since their shock in Sydney, but that progress had not translated into wins.

The spark came from Stringer, who was criticized by Rutten in his comeback match last week. The former Bulldogs star only had four possessions until halftime, but set his team on fire with a sparkling third term.

Jake Stringer. Credit:Getty Images

His first goal from long range netted the Saints a run of five consecutive goals and renewed his team’s faith. A few minutes later, with more confidence, he attempted daring kicks from the ground in front of goal, but it was his pressure that impressed Rutten the most.

“I thought he responded and was back to the Jake we know,” Rutten said. “What I like most about his game was that he had the six tackles, fifty pressure points. That’s Jake at his best.

“We know if he’s got the game involvement, he’s been attending more center bounces, he’s in the game, putting pressure on him and participating. It’s no problem if he gets his hands on the ball, so that part of his game, there I was most pleased with it.”

The Bombers’ audacity in the selection by choosing a subpar defense against Max King, Rowan Marshall and Tim Membrey was justified. King was held to just one goal by Jordan Ridley and they were damaging in the rebound via Nick Hind, Mason Redman, Dyson Heppell and Massimo D’Ambrosio.

Max King, left, and Jordan Ridley.

Max King, left, and Jordan Ridley.Credit:Getty Images

Their forwards were brisk, sweating with every move of the Saints and making key interceptions to capture the ball in their attacking half. Stringer set the tone with his bustle, pulling a foul kick from Jade Gresham for the first of four Dons’ goals in the opening term.

The Saints were out, their ball handling was sloppy. So concerned was Ratten, he put forward Tim Membrey as a reserve defender in the second term. It delayed Essendon’s scoring, but didn’t help them score either.



The Bombers have found a handy talent in the recently re-released mid-season draft – and this year may be no different. There was something nice about D’Ambrosio’s senior debut. The teenage rookie of Richmond’s VFL team has been given the number 42 previously worn by Adam Saad, and with his running and left boot, he bears more than a small resemblance to his predecessor. D’Ambrosio, with 15 possessions, was part of the Dons’ running brigade of the defense that gave much-needed verve to their ball movement. “I loved him,” said Rutten. “He’s been with the club for two weeks now, he still has to figure out how to get to training and all that.”


If Rutten wants to show his players how easy it is to come from hard, he must highlight the thrilling end-to-end passage that resulted in a goal for Peter Wright.

The Dons were unlucky not to be rewarded for Dylan Shiel’s desperate tackle in the center and didn’t drop their bundle. Deep in defense, Andrew McGrath won a one-on-one marking match at the top of the square against Jack Higgins. From there, they spread the ball across the width of the field, expanding the Saints’ defensive zone.

It resulted in Wright being able to grab and convert a big mark 20.

ST KILDA 2.1 3.3 8.4 11.6 (72)
ESSENDON 4.5 7.7 13.11 15.17 (107)

St Kilda: Gresham 3, Billings 2, Higgins 2, Long, Marshall, King, Ryder
Essendon: Wright 4, Jones 2, Stringer 2, Guelfi 2, Draper 2, Perkins, Martin, Durham
St Kilda: Battle, Gresham, Sinclair, Hill.
Essendon: Hind, Redman, Caldwell, Wright, Ridley, Merrett, Shiel, McGrath, Stringer.

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