Saints, Cats build up for blockbuster - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Saints, Cats build up for blockbuster

By Roger Vaughan And Sam Lienert 28/06/2009 09:19:31 PM Comments (0)

The unprecedented AFL regular-season blockbuster, 13 rounds in the making, is finally upon St Kilda and Geelong.

No two teams have been unbeaten so far into a season in the game's history, with the Saints to host the Cats next Sunday at Etihad Stadium in front of a sellout crowd of more than 50,000.

The league controversially decided several weeks ago not to move the game to the 100,000-capacity MCG.

Both teams maintained their 2009 streaks with regulation wins on Sunday, although St Kilda had two scares early in their 56-point twilight win over Richmond.

The Tigers kept them goalless in the first term - the first time it has happened to the Saints this season - and key defender Max Hudghton was stretchered off with what initially appeared to be a career-threatening ankle injury.

Hudghton went down in the first quarter but was back on the field in the second as the Saints kept Richmond scoreless for 77 minutes on the way to winning 13.14 (92) to 5.6 (36) at Etihad Stadium.

Hudghton was on crutches post-match and Saints coach Ross Lyon said the club would know in the next two days whether he would be fit the coming "massive challenge".

"We're really excited about next week ... why are Geelong the benchmark team? Quite simply, it's weight of numbers, they won (55 out of 58)," Lyon said.

"It's an impressive number - all we've done is win 13 in a row.

"We really get to measure ourselves, a yardstick, and we get to walk away next week knowing where we need to improve, regardless of the result.

"Geelong have a strong history of really attacking their challenges ... really fiercely - so we're under no illusions."

In Sunday's early game, Geelong had no trouble beating Port Adelaide by 34 points at Skilled Stadium, 18.14 (122) to 13.10 (88).

Cats coach Mark Thompson said next Sunday's match would be even bigger than the round-17 game last season against Hawthorn.

Like this time, Geelong's 11-point win over the Hawks last year was the only time they met before the finals.

The Hawks went on to upset the Cats in the grand final.

"It has been built up for about eight weeks, hasn't it?," Thompson said of the Saints clash.

"Last year the Geelong-Hawthorn game had that big build-up, this year maybe the Geelong-Collingwood game, but probably this one's a bit bigger than that."

Also on Sunday, caretaker Darren Crocker coached North Melbourne for the first time and the Western Bulldogs took three quarters to blunt their challenge.

The Bulldogs pulled away in the final term to win by 22 points, 17.6 (108) to 12.14 (86).

On Saturday, Sydney key forward Barry Hall was reported again as Adelaide won by 16 points at AAMI Stadium, 12.13 (85) to 10.9 (69).

Arch-rivals Collingwood and Essendon built up for Friday night's MCG blockbuster with big wins.

The Magpies thrashed Fremantle on Saturday by 84 points, 26.13 (169) to 13.7 (85).

On Friday night, Essendon had their best win for the season so far, thrashing Carlton 21.10 (136) to 9.13 (67).

Hawthorn's premiership defence lurched deeper into crisis on Saturday night with a 20-point loss to West Coast, 16.11 (107) to 13.9 (87), while Brisbane thrashed hapless Melbourne 16.15 (111) to 8.8 (56).

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