Saints hold off Crows in AFL thriller - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Saints hold off Crows in AFL thriller

By Sam Lienert 14/07/2007 12:07:44 AM Comments (0)

St Kilda have overcome a terrible start and a series of late errors to notch a nail-biting two-point victory over Adelaide and keep their faint AFL finals hopes alive at Telstra Dome.

The Saints won 11.16 (82) to 12.8 (80), surviving a tense last quarter in which the Crows kicked the final two goals to draw level before St Kilda scored two behinds to edge their way to victory.

Key forward Nick Riewoldt starred for the Saints with 18 marks and two goals, while full-forward Fraser Gehrig booted four goals.

The Saints started the match in dismal fashion, with Adelaide holding a 17-point lead at the first change and extending it to 23 points when they kicked the opening goal of the second term.

Crows midfielders Simon Goodwin, Tyson Edwards and Scott Thompson, as well as running defenders Andrew McLeod and Graham Johncock, were given too much latitude allowing them to move the ball forward with ease and precision.

But the Saints lifted their workrate enormously in the final three quarters, winning much more of the ball as well as improving their tackling to put the Crows under constant pressure.

Robert Harvey, Lenny Hayes and Leigh Montagna had enormous games in the midfield to lift their side, while unheralded ex-Western Bulldogs player Shane Birss was also instrumental in the revival.

Running defenders Sam Fisher and Jason Gram also gave the Saints plenty as they regularly moved forward.

Saints coach Ross Lyon said he did not want to concentrate on what the win could do for the club's season, despite acknowledging its importance.

"As a player group we can't focus on these season-defining games, because you tighten up, and I felt we did that in the Kangaroos game," Lyon said.

"So all we're really focusing on, and I know it's a cliche, is what we need to do to play well as a team, so basic indicators, obviously tackling and using the ball.

"We're not looking at the results ... we all know they're important games, but if I walked in and said to the group 'Our season's on the line', I don't think it achieves anything."

But Lyon said the Saints had put together some solid football to win three of their past four games, after having lost their previous four.

"We've worked hard on the track and we've really stuck together as a coach and playing group and focused on the basics and it's put us in really good stead," he said.

With the help of a dominant second term by Riewoldt and two quick goals to Gehrig, the Saints were able to put themselves up by three points at half-time.

But despite St Kilda continuing to control the game in general play in the second half, they could not put the game out of Adelaide's reach.

They outscored Adelaide 3.5 to 3.3 for the third quarter to extend their lead to five points, but it should have been much more, with all three Crows goals for the term coming against the flow of play.

The final quarter was a similar story, with Gehrig kicking his fourth early to extend the lead to 11 points, but Saints' mistakes again kept the Crows in touch.

Ricciuto scored a crumbing goal after Saints ruckman Justin Koschitzke spoiled his own team-mate Michael Rix in a marking contest.

Koschitzke made amends by taking a big mark and goalling later in the term to again stretch the buffer to 11 points.

Scott Welsh levelled the scores in time-on after Harvey had given the ball up with a wayward short pass in the Saints' attack, allowing the Crows to sweep forward.

But the Saints' workrate and midfield control won out in the end, with a rushed behind giving them the lead and a Gehrig behind making it a two-point victory after several more nervous moments in the final minutes.

Adelaide coach Neil Craig said a calf injury to full-back Ben Rutten late in the first half, which meant he did not play after half-time, hurt the Crows, as it meant key forward Ken McGregor had to be swung into defence.

"One of the things that Ken does when he's (in attack) is he's very good in the air and he does straighten us up and I thought we went a bit wide and were a bit hesitant going into our forward line, but we had no choice," Craig said.

"In the end we got caught one big man short."

Adelaide skipper Mark Ricciuto hurt his ankle in the opening quarter and while he later returned to the ground, the injury kept him below his best.

But Craig said his side had also been hurt by their own inconsistency this season and that again showed up, with a poor second quarter allowing the Saints into the match.

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