Neitz back as Demons eliminate Saints - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Neitz back as Demons eliminate Saints

By Sam Lienert 08/09/2006 10:32:43 PM Comments (0)

Melbourne skipper David Neitz made a heroic return to finals football as the Demons surged to a thrilling 13.12 (90) to 10.12 (72) AFL elimination final win over St Kilda at the MCG.

Facing extreme pressure after falling at the first hurdle in the finals series of the past two seasons, it looked as though the Demons were again headed down that path when the Saints led by as many as 27 points during the second quarter.

But they stormed home with the final five goals of the match in a 13-minute burst to capture the three-goal victory.

Neitz, who had missed the finals series of the past two years with injuries, kicked four goals, including the major that put Melbourne in front 17 minutes into the final term, after they had trailed for all but five of the previous 104 minutes.

Neitz outbodied St Kilda defender Max Hudghton in the goalsquare to mark and slot through his fourth major, which came in the middle of the Demons' last-quarter onslaught.

The kick to Neitz game from pacy forward Aaron Davey, who had earlier in the quarter given away two 50m penalties, including one which set up his opponent Steven Baker for St Kilda's only goal of the term.

Baker's goal, 10 minutes into the quarter, put the Saints up by 15 points, which seemed enough of a lead in a low-scoring, scrappy match to have them on the road to victory.

But Melbourne showed tremendous character to dominate the midfield in the final stages and fight its way out of trouble.

Midfielders Cameron Bruce, Brad Green and Brock McLean were all superb for the Demons, while Jeff White's tireless ruckwork was also a big factor in Melbourne's revival.

McLean scored two goals in the last quarter - either side of Neitz's lead-changing major - with McLean's second, resulting from an off-the-ball free kick given away by Hudghton, sealing the match for Melbourne.

The victory was not without a cost for Melbourne, with defender Matthew Whelan injuring his right arm after being ridden into the ground by Baker in the second quarter and spending the rest of the match on the sidelines.

Earlier, the Saints gained the ascendancy when full-forward Fraser Gehrig kicked three consecutive goals in a four-minute purple patch in the opening quarter.

Those were his only majors for the match, with the big forward troubled by a leg injury which he sustained shortly before halftime, although he returned to the ground in the second half.

After a tight second term, Melbourne charged to within two points early in the third quarter, but the Saints responded by stretching the lead back out to 22.

But the Demons kicked the final two goals of the third term, through Neitz and Byron Pickett, to be within nine points at the last change.

Baker kicked the opening goal of the final term, before Melbourne's late charge took the match.

The Saints were not helped by injuries to brothers Xavier and Raphael Clarke with Xavier going off in the opening quarter and Raphael in the third.

The loss provided another disappointing finish to a season for the Saints, who have bowed out in a preliminary final in each of the past two years and again started this season among the leading premiership contenders.

The Demons will next play the loser of Saturday's clash between Adelaide and Fremantle at AAMI Stadium, at their opponent's home ground.

They have now won 11 of 12 matches at the MCG this season, but will not play another match in Melbourne until the grand final, if they make it that far.

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