Dan Hannebery of the Saints celebrates after scoring a goal against the Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium.
Dan Hannebery of the Saints celebrates after scoring a goal against the Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium.

Dogs get one-star review in Saints show

St Kilda members turned up to the Dromana Drive-In to watch their side's clash with the Western Bulldogs on Sunday night.

They got something on the big screen that more closely resembled Fast & Furious.

After a Round 1 performance in which the Saints' ran out of gas at halftime against North Melbourne, the foot was to the floor for a full quarters against the Bulldogs.

After opening up a commanding 23-point halftime lead, this time the margin only grew as the match went on.

In Brett Ratten's first full season as coach, this was a different looking team to 2019.

 

 

The Saints had pace to burn, brought pressure, had some added grunt and made the most of their opportunities.

They took the game on at every opportunity - and took the Bulldogs to the cleaners.

The recruits fired, too.

Former Swan Zak Jones was among the best afield through the midfield, Brad Hill had some nice moments, Dougal Howard kept Aaron Naughton relatively quiet and Dan Butler had some serious scoreboard impact.

 

St Kilda recruit. Zak Jones runs away from Lin Jong. Picture: Michael Klein
St Kilda recruit. Zak Jones runs away from Lin Jong. Picture: Michael Klein

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Add in impressive performances from rising young stars Jack Billings and Jade Gresham and this was a statement game from a side intent on climbing the ladder this season.

DOGS' HORROR MOVIE

It was a very different story for the Bulldogs, whose fans watching at home experienced something that more resembled a horror movie, with added shades of Groundhog Day.

The team rated by Champion Data to have the second-best playing list in the competition this season was made to look second-rate once again, days after being accused of becoming a team a team with a "softish mentality".

The Bulldogs lost the contested possession count 123-93 against Collingwood in Round 1 - and went into halftime against the Saints trailing the count 68-53.

 

Bradley Hill wins a clearance under pressure from Ed Richards. Picture: Michael Klein
Bradley Hill wins a clearance under pressure from Ed Richards. Picture: Michael Klein

 

The long-term problem of inaccurate goalkicking also reared its ugly head once again.

At the 10-minute-mark of the second quarter, the Saints led 32-16 despite the two teams having the same number of shots on goal.

A 0-2 start in a 17-game season is far from ideal for Luke Beveridge and his team - especially with a clash against top-four fancy Greater Western Sydney next on the cards.

RUCK DILEMMA

St Kilda coach Brett Ratten has said he might play only one ruckman in some games this year.

That might happen more often than not.

After being far from an overwhelming success in Round 1, the two-pronged ruck attack of Paddy Ryder and Rowan Marshall again had limited impact against the Bulldogs.

Ryder was again the starting ruck, with Marshall in the forward line.

The pair swapped at different stages and had the better of Tim English in the hitouts department.

But both struggled to have any major impact during their stints in attack.

 

Max provided a strong target for the Saints. Picture: Michael Klein
Max provided a strong target for the Saints. Picture: Michael Klein

Marshall - who finished second in the Saints' best-and-fairest rucking alone last season - kicked a third-quarter goal but Ryder did not hit the scoreboard and neither won much of the ball around the ground.

BEST:

Western Bulldogs: B.Smith, Dunkley, Lipinski, Bontempelli, Macrae, Jong.

St Kilda: Billings, Jones, Steele, Butler, Gresham, Ross, Clark. Hannebery.

VOTES

3: Jack Billings (StK)

2: Zak Jones (StK)

1: Bailey Smith (WB)

 

BEVO: DOGS DIDN'T FOLLOW GAME PLAN

Sam Landsberger

Premiership coach Luke Beveridge savaged his team's sloppy ball use and admitted they failed to follow the game plan as the Western Bulldogs sunk to the bottom of the AFL ladder.

New captain Marcus Bontempelli addressed his players on the Marvel Stadium surface after the 39-point loss to St Kilda, telling them to "keep their chins up".

Sunday night was the first of three games in 12 days for the battling Bulldogs. They must now face fierce rival GWS Marvel Stadium on Friday night.

Defender Easton Wood will miss at least another two weeks and the Bulldogs were annoyed the Saints declined their offer to play a scratch match on Saturday.

But Beveridge will get a proper look at his entire list with a practice match against North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium booked as a curtain-raiser to Friday night's clash against the Giants.

The Saints scored a whopping 55 points from turnovers, 31 more than the Dogs, and Beveridge was frustrated that his players handballed way too much.

He also said the Dogs midfield "chased our tail" because young ruckman Tim English was sorely beaten again.

"We didn't plan to go in and have that kick-to-handball ratio, but it happened," Beveridge said.

"It's not something we train, but it crept into our game so we'll need to make sure we make it clear to the boys what the right patterns are there.

"They scored a lot of goals from turnover possession gains in open field from our blatant skill errors, and they were difficult to defend on counter-defence.

"We gave the ball back to them quite blatantly."

The teams had the same number of inside-50s, however the Saints were able to generate easy shots at goal.

 

Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli after the final siren. Picture Michael Klein
Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli after the final siren. Picture Michael Klein

 

Beveridge swung five changes last week and, like Bontempelli, vowed to stay "glass half full" with his players because of the changes sweeping through the team.

Only five members of the 2016 premiership ran out with Toby McLean, Zaine Cordy and Tom Liberatore missing selection.

Liberatore trained well at Whitten Oval on Saturday and Beveridge wants to "set him up to succeed" after missing so many games due to knee injuries.

The Dogs have now lost their past three matches by an average of 49.6 points.

In the final six home-and-away games last year the Bulldogs averaged 111 points and were ranked No.1 in attack with their sexy brand earning them a bumper 2020 fixture.

But since that run they have averaged a competition-low 46 points.

In the second quarter Ryan Gardner should've set Ling Jong up for a shot on goal with a simple pass, but the kick missed badly and the Saints went coast-to-coast.

It was Gardner's only kick for the half and Beveridge said the club now needed to decide whether it was worth persisting with the struggling swingman.

Overall, Beveridge saw positives though as youngster Bailey Smith led the way with 29 disposals, Laitham Vandermeer kicked a goal on debut and Pat Lipinski dominated early.

"It's still Round 2. You're always going through change, sometimes it's a step backwards to go forwards," Beveridge said.

"I've got a really strong belief in our players and our group and what we're capable of. That's what some of the discussion was at the end of the game again.

"Alex Keath and Josh Bruce have just joined us, we're relying on Tim (English) to continue to grow in his position as a ruckman (and) Naughty's (Aaron Naughton) a 20-year-old key forward."

 

RATTS: SAINTS ARE STILL LEARNING

Chris Cavanagh

St Kilda coach Brett Ratten has labelled Sunday night's win over the Western Bulldogs a "step in the right direction" but says consistency of performance will determine his side's fate this season.

The Saints powered to a 39-point triumph in a four-quarter performance at Marvel Stadium, responding after coughing up a 29-point halftime lead to lose to North Melbourne in Round 1.

"I think we're growing as a group, so this is a victory," Ratten said.

"But I think our season will be really determined by our consistency in making sure that we get everything right, because against the Kangas we can't have four goals against in 5min 40sec and give up a lead when we had that game under control. That's going to be the challenge.

"We're still learning about each other. Players are still learning about Hilly (Brad Hill) and Zak (Jones) and Dougal (Howard) and Paddy (Ryder) as well. So that's going to be a challenge for us, but that was a good step in the right direction for us."

The Saints made the most of their opportunities early and showed a strong connection between their lines. At halftime they had logged two fewer inside-50s than the Bulldogs but had kicked 7.3 from 17 entries to hold a 23-point lead.

"We've done a fair bit on our ball use in the last three weeks when we've been back," Ratten said.

"We wanted to get more bang for buck. Against the Kangaroos we got the ball in enough and we got shots but we couldn't convert so we wanted to make them easier shots if we could and we did that."

Ratten said it would be "horses for courses" on whether the Saints play a two-pronged ruck attack of Ryder and Rowan Marshall going forward but said he was happy with how the pair had competed.

The Saints are hopeful of scheduling a practice match against Collingwood this week for players who are not selected at AFL level, which would give defender Dylan Roberton a chance to push his case for a return.

"He's gone away to work on a few things," Ratten said.

"He's been out of the game for a long time. He's got a little bit of a challenge at the moment but I know that he'll be working extremely hard and we'll work with him."

Originally published as Dogs get one-star review in Saints show