Saints hold off fast-finishing Fremantle
Fremantle 2.1 4.5 7.6 10.7 (67)
St Kilda 4.2 8.6 11.7 12.13 (85)
Fremantle: Morabito 2, Ballantyne 2, Barlow, Bradley, Fyfe, Pavlich, Duffield, Hasleby
St Kilda: Milne 4, Koschitzke 2, Schneider 2 McQualter, Gardiner, Jones, Gilbert
Fremantle: Ballantyne, Barlow, McPhee, Mundy, Sandilands, Tarrant
St Kilda: Goddard, Milne, Fisher, Gilbert, Dal Santo, Koschitzke, Ray
Fremantle: Palmer (ankle) replaced in selected side by Hasleby, van Berlo (ankle)
St Kilda: Clarke (hamstring)
Reports: Justin Koschitzke (St Kilda) for striking Ryan Crowley
Umpires: Margetts, Rosebury, Findlay
Official crowd: 37,569 at Subiaco Oval
ST KILDA has notched its fourth straight win and separated itself from top-four challenger Fremantle, holding on in a tight finish to notch an 18-point win at Subiaco Oval on Sunday.
Led by Stephen Milne, who kicked four first-half goals in his 200th game, the Saints built a 37-point lead halfway through the third term and held on to win 12.13 (85) to 10.7 (67).
Fremantle mounted a courageous late challenge, kicking five of the last six goals, but the Saints wouldn’t be denied, cementing themselves in the top three ahead of their mid-season break.
Milne didn’t kick a goal after half-time, with Chris Tarrant moved onto the in-form forward, but his four first-half majors were important in a low-scoring clash.
Goddard was also superb for the visitors, winning 20 of his 33 possessions as a loose defender in the first half, and moving into the midfield to have an impact at the stoppages in the second.
The star playmaker was able to position himself in front of Matthew Pavlich, and alongside Sam Fisher the Saints didn’t concede a single scoring shot to the Freo skipper in the first half.
St Kilda coach Ross Lyon said he was proud of his players, who fought on a man down after losing Raphael Clarke to a hamstring injury 10 minutes into the game.
“We were certainly up for the challenge,” Lyon said after the game. “We’ve banked another four points now and go to the bye licking some wounds after some really courageous efforts.
“Farren Ray backed into the path of (Matthew) Pavlich and (Leigh) Montagna really got creamed; that’s just to mention a couple of them.
“As an AFL coach you ask your group to give effort and execution, and they certainly did that.”
With Pavlich well held, Hayden Ballantyne shaped as Fremantle’s most dangerous weapon, but the goalsneak missed a number of opportunities in an otherwise impressive performance, finishing with 2.3 and five inside 50s from his 19 possessions.
Michael Barlow (26 possessions) continued his stellar debut season, while Aaron Sandilands (42 hit-outs and five clearances) got his regular numbers, but Fremantle had to commit to shutting down the Saints’ star midfielders and was constantly on the back foot.
Adam McPhee restricted Lenny Hayes’ influence, while Ryan Crowley did the same to Leigh Montagna in the first half, but the Saints continued to get drive from half-back.
Up forward, the visitors were well served by Justin Koschitzke, who beat opponent Antoni Grover and finished with two goals and 17 possessions in an impressive display.
Fremantle coach Mark Harvey said his side didn’t move the ball effectively against the Saints’ zone and suffered with a low inside 50 count (39-54).
“We never played well,” Harvey said. “We were always either three or four goals behind, and with St Kilda at some stage you’ve got to ask them to play on you a little bit more.
“We probably didn’t shift their zone around enough with our ball movement. We tended to take the more ‘kick along the line’ ball movement rather than move it around and see whether they could cope with that.”
Harvey said Fremantle should regain Rhys Palmer next week after the midfielder was withdrawn late with an ankle injury.
The Saints face Geelong after their week off, while Fremantle travels to face Carlton next week having lost consecutive matches for the first time this season.