Round Seven 2017 was a massive occasion for the Saints as it saw them return to the Friday Night Stage after a long wait. Hosting the perennially Premiership fancied GWS, Alan Richardson’s young team faced a genuine test of quality.
Winning the first clearance of the match, the Saints quickly registered the first score of the match through a rushed behind. The lead was soon doubled when Jack Billings kicked a behind before a soccer from Jeremy Cameron gave the visitors their first lead. Billings would answer with a fine set shot before the teams traded goals trough Tim Tarranto, Darren Minchington and Jacob Hopper. Yet, despite the evenness of the contest, when Nathan Wilson goaled next for the Giants it saw them take a ten point lead into the first break.
Nathan Wright opened the scoring in the second term but saw his six pointer quickly answered by the Giants Jeremy Cameron in his 100th game. Dylan Roberton caught the visitors napping to kick a long bomb from 50. Two behinds a piece were scored before Billings bobbed up to kick his second of the match to give the Saints the lead. A massive tackle from Jarryn Geary stopped a certain Giants score and from the resultant ruck contest the skippers hardwork was rewarded with a goal to Tim Membrey. The Saints didn’t have long to savour their match high seven point lead though with Jonathon Patton and Stephen Coniglio both kicking goals for the visitors to retake the lead at the long break.
Rory Lobb and Tom Scully extended the Giants lead after the break to a game high 17-points. A second goal to Wright spared Billings some blushes after he made a mess of an opportunity in the goal square. Jade Gresham kicked his first soon after to bring the margin back to within a single kick. The Saints would draw closer still through behinds to Membrey and Seb Ross before a Stephen Coniglio goal and a trio of behinds to the Giants extended it again to 12-points. Goals to Gresham and Jack Newnes saw the teams level again before a Cameron behind and a Devon Smith goal on the three quarter time siren saw the teams separated by seven points at the final change.
What was to follow was not immediately apparent when the Giants peppered away for two behinds to start the final term. A brave kick in from the second by Leigh Montagna saw the Saints sweep the ball from one end to the other. Darren Minchington earned a free kick inside fifty but did not need to test his range when he found Blake Acres, with a crisp pass, all alone close to goal. The Western Australian made no mistake with his shot and hit the scoreboard quickly after with a second major to give the Saints the lead. More important than the slender margin, with six of the last eight goals of the match, the home team now had all the momentum as the game neared its conclusion.
With the chance to consolidate his teams position, Josh Bruce stood tall with a set shot three minutes later. Jack Steven, who had been instrumental after half time, kicked another shortly after before Gresham iced the contest as it entered time-on. Steven would help himself to another late to see the lead out to 29-points. The Giants would gain some late consolation through Scully but it could do little to dampen the spirits of the home team who had produced one of their best performances in a very long time in the competition’s prime time spot. They had passed their first examination under the bright Friday Night Lights.