x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

St Kilda show strength runs deep

The weakened Saints still had the better of an ugly, scrappy contest at Aurora Stadium against Hawthorn.

It would not be a surprise to see a few scone stalls open outside Glenferrie Oval during the week. Melbourne media reports covered in great detail the amount people were prepared to spend on Hawthorn's chances against a depleted St Kilda team on Saturday in Tassie. It would have been tempting: no Nick Riewoldt, no Brendon Goddard, no Leigh Montagna, no Lenny Hayes, no Steven Baker. But then there were also the late withdrawals of Nick Dal Santo and Sam Fisher.

Such is the depth of the Saints' list this season that they still had the better of an ugly, scrappy contest at Aurora Stadium against the "Tassie Hawks" to run out 25-point winners, with the dangerous Stephen Milne and Adam Schneider booting three apiece. That leaves the reigning premier one game out of the eight, with time running out, and the Saints undefeated after 19 rounds. Can they make even more history by getting through the next three rounds without a loss?

Essendon look like the only slight threat to the perfect home and away season in their twilight meeting on Sunday, as St Kilda then goes on to face North Melbourne and Melbourne, which may allow them to keep some petrol in the tank for the finals. Less impressive were the Western Bulldogs, who went down for the second time this season to West Coast, which was lacking brilliant midfielder Daniel Kerr and ruckman Dean Cox. Eleven points before kicking the first goal is hardly the stuff of aspiring grand finalists.

The Dogs have given up third spot on the ladder to Collingwood, who beat Adelaide by 21 points, and will battle to keep fourth with games against Brisbane, Geelong and the Magpies to end the season. The Cats, with second place pretty much set in concrete, had a shock 35-point loss to Carlton on Friday night. pstafford@thenational.ae