Riewoldt leads Saints into grand final - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Riewoldt leads Saints into grand final

By Adam Cooper 18/09/2009 10:45:13 PM Comments (0)

St Kilda are one win away from heaven after earning a place in the AFL grand final by pipping the Western Bulldogs by seven points in Friday night's preliminary final at the MCG.

The Saints overcame the early hiccup of being kept goalless in the first quarter and the late drama of trailing for most of last term, but won 9.6 (60) to 7.11 (53) before a crowd of 78,245.

Captain Nick Riewoldt rose when needed with four goals in the second half, including his side's only two in the last quarter.

The All-Australian skipper underlined his champion status by putting his side in front, after a strong mark and goal from 35 metres with seven minutes left, and then iced the game with a kick off the ground with 75 seconds remaining.

St Kilda's victory gives them the chance to cap an outstanding season by adding to the club's sole premiership of 1966.

Their grand final opponent will be determined by Saturday night's clash between Geelong and Collingwood.

While the Saints' win sparked scenes of elation among the players and their success-starved fans, the Bulldogs' devastation quickly became apparent after another heart-breaking loss.

The Bulldogs have now lost their past six preliminary finals since their 1961 grand-final defeat, and this one made it three close calls following the 10-point loss in 1985 and the two-point defeat in 1997.

Captain Brad Johnson looked to have made it a fairytale win for the Bulldogs when he marked and goaled at the start of the last quarter, and the Doggies dominated general play for most of the term.

But their inability to put away St Kilda kept the Saints alive, and Riewoldt showed what impact a key forward of class can have on a final.

Riewoldt and his side were kept quiet in the first quarter, as his opponent Dale Morris led the Bulldogs' charge.

But after fighting back in the second term, Riewoldt changed the complexion of the game with the opening goal of the second half, albeit in controversial circumstances.

The big forward was awarded a free kick down the field before the ball was bounced, after getting a shove from Bulldog Brian Lake.

The resultant goal brought the Saints to within one point, and defender Sam Fisher stamped his influence on the game moments later when he put the Saints in front, before Riewoldt added another.

But the Bulldogs were not done with, and fought back through a goal to Johnson and a snap by Daniel Giansiracusa, which regained them the lead.

Stephen Milne then regained St Kilda the lead in the last 10 seconds before three-quarter time, until Johnson booted the opening goal of the last quarter.

In an absorbing last quarter, the Bulldogs dominated general play and sent forward a string of attacking thrusts, but could not conjure a break as the Saints' backline held firm.

Riewoldt and his All-Australian teammates were superb when it mattered, as Lenny Hayes and Nick Dal Santo were the best players in the first half, while Brendon Goddard found his skipper with a couple of long kicks for goals.

Fisher's third quarter was magnificent - his defensive work was great aside from his goal - while tagger Clinton Jones did a good job for most of the night on Bulldogs star Adam Cooney.

Lake, half-forward Ryan Griffen and back pocket Jarrod Harbrow were the Bulldogs' best, along with midfielder Matthew Boyd.

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