Saints maintain perfect season - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Saints maintain perfect season

By Roger Vaughan 08/08/2009 06:50:34 PM Comments (0)

St Kilda posted one of their best wins in a so-far perfect AFL season on Saturday as they passed a critical test of talent depth.

The Saints used their trademark defensive pressure to harass and eventually subdue Hawthorn at Launceston, scoring an unexpected 25-point win.

They were without eight of their best 22 for the 10.14 (74) to 7.7 (49) win, extending their streak to 19 games.

Hawthorn, the defending premiers, will be two games out of the finals with three rounds left if Port Adelaide beat Fremantle on Sunday at Subiaco.

No team has achieved a perfect AFL season, but the Saints' last three opponents are Essendon, North Melbourne and Melbourne before the finals.

The Saints laid an astonishing 114 tackles - understood to be an AFL record - to 67.

Hawthorn's disposals were also telling - 169 kicks and 214 handballs - which reflected how they were often forced to use a chain of short handpasses before the Saints would pounce and make them cough up the ball.

Before the match, Saints coach Ross Lyon promised his depleted team would still play with full effort and Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson warned that the Saints' system of play, not their absent stars, was the No.1 key to their great season.

Both were 100 per cent correct.

"It doesn't matter so much about the players, obviously they have some quality players out, it's the system that they play with that's the key to St Kilda's success," Clarkson said.

"That's why they'll travel pretty deep into September, I'd imagine, and probably win it."

St Kilda were initially without captain Nick Riewoldt, Brendon Goddard, Leigh Montagna, Steven Baker and Lenny Hayes, while Sam Fisher and Nick Dal Santo were late withdrawals.

Sam Gilbert was already sidelined through injury.

Rumours of mass changes prompted a major mid-week betting plunge on the Hawks.

The Saints obviously made the changes to freshen their stars before the finals.

Captain Max Hudghton said it was crucial to have such good depth ahead of September.

He spoke at the post-match media conference because Lyon flew back to Melbourne soon after the game, to watch Saturday night's Essendon-Brisbane match at the MCG.

"The great thing that came out of today was that our depth was going to be tested - we came through with flying colours," Hudghton said.

"Everybody has got to keep their seat on the bus and there are guys underneath who are pushing week-in, week-out to strive to get in our side."

One thing that Hudghton insists is not a focus for the Saints is their incredible streak.

"You guys might find it hard to believe, but it's not discussed at all," Hudghton said.

All the players who came into the Saints side contributed, with Jack Steven making his senior debut and Colm Begley playing his first AFL game for the club.

David Armitage, in his first senior game this season, was high among the Saints best, along with small forwards Adam Schneider and Stephen Milne.

It was also a great day for young Saints defender Zac Dawson, another who returned to the team.

He was delisted from Hawthorn at the end of last season and has been a revelation this year.

Dawson and Hudghton kept Lance Franklin without a goal in his 100th game.

Franklin worked hard, but lost a tooth when Dawson accidentally collected him across the head in the last quarter, an incident that should have earned the star Hawk a free kick in front.

Captain Sam Mitchell was best for the Hawks.

Clarkson said the finals had not been a priority for several weeks, with the Hawks' only focus being to improve their own system of play.

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