AFL 2018: All The Goals – Round 15 v Melbourne

Entering the match 16th for points scored and 18th for efficiency inside 50, it was felt pregame that the Saints would struggle to compete against a team ranked first in both categories. Yet, despite Melbourne going inside their attacking zone 12 more times and improving their season average in both aforementioned statistics, it was not enough to compete with the Saints improved synergy between midfield and forward line.

AFL 2018: Demons Vanquished in MCG Heartstopper – Round 15 v Melbourne

Not that this was apparent early with the Demons running out to an early 19-point lead through a goal to Fritsch and two to Brayshaw. It would take until the 15th minute for the Saints to answer with their first goal of the afternoon after Paddy McCartin profited from a turnover at half forward created by Mav Weller. An incredible Jade Gresham clearance from the resulting centre bounce saw Tim Membrey kick the second a minute later. McCartin would then give the Saints the lead after he was tackled high then marched 50-metres after the Demons encroached the protected zone.

The umpires would raise the ire of the Demons fans with the next goal too. Jade Gresham the beneficiary when Max Gawn brought down Jack Billings after he had taken a running shot at goal. While many thought that the ball would be brought back as it had crossed for a behind, a quick-thinking Gresham was first on the scene to take the free-kick from where it had gone out of play – between the goal post and behind post. Without a Melbourne player to be seen, he picked up the ball and, after being put on his line by the umpire, played on and kicked the goal. After trailing by 19 points after 14 minutes the Saints now led by eight.

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An Alex Neale-Bullen goal would see the margin reduced to a point at quarter time and when Bailey Fristch kicked his second in the opening minute of the second term, the Demons had retaken the lead. Shane Savage would regain the lead for the Saints two minutes later after receiving a hand off from Billings who had marked 50-metres out from goal. They would then kick the next two after a forward half turnover initiated by Jake Carlise would lead to a set shot goal for Tim Membrey and a possession chain from defence ended with Jade Gresham receiving a handpass over the top in the goal square.

The Saints would have no time to rest on their laurels though, with McDonald, Petracca and Harmes kicking the next three to once again take the lead for the Demons. A holding the ball free kick would allow Hunter Clarke to answer and he was quickly followed by Jack Steele who was on the receiving end of a 50-metre penalty after the Demons once again encroached the protected zone. When Jack Newnes kicked truly after accepting a handoff from Jack Steven who had marked on the attacking arc, the lead had ballooned to 15-points. Dom Tyson would interrupt the Saints run but the buffer would be again restored when David Armitage kicked truly after the half time siren.

With five goals scored, the third quarter would prove to be the calm before the storm. James Harmes scored his second goal with the assistance of the decision review system before a pair of Jade Gresham goals saw the Saints out to a game high 23-point lead. Jesse Hogan would get one back before Tim Membrey kicked his third for the day to ensure the margin was taken into the final break.

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The last quarter saw 11-goals kicked as Melbourne mounted a spirited challenge. Jack Billings extended the three-quarter-time margin with the first goal of the term but when the Saints conceded four of the next five goals the difference between the teams was just ten points. Membrey’s fourth for the day the only response as Harmes, Melksham, Fritsch and Hogan brought Melbourne within touching distance.

Yet, just as soon as Hogan’s second goal seemed to have breathed life into the contest Josh Battle and Jack Steven appeared to have extinguished it. Fritsch, Hogan and Lewis had other ideas though and when the former Hawk kicked truly, the margin was just two points with 30-seconds to play. After having been obliterated in the clearance battle throughout the term, the Saints won the most important one contested in the match. Jack Steven winning the decisive contest and, with no forwards ahead of him, kicked it long and wide towards the boundary.

Despite Christian Petracca winning the footrace to the ball, Steven and Gresham quickly wrapped him up and the ball was rushed into touch with 11 seconds on the clock. The pair would again combine at the resulting throw in with a Gresham tap ending up with Steven who played keepings off with one last handpass. With that, all that was left was to celebrate.

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