The Friday night matchup between Fremantle and St Kilda at Etihad Stadium received a heap of media attention throughout the week, mainly due to two big stories.
Nat Fyfe didn’t end up playing as team doctors opted to rest him for a week and strengthen his dislocated shoulder while Ross Lyon coaching against the team he dumped in the offseason garnered more than a few boos from the St Kilda faithful.
But Fremantle were able to ignore all the hoopla surrounding the match and take a great win in Melbourne, a city that hasn’t been kind to them in recent years, 14.8.(92)-11.13.(79).
In a theme that would reoccur throughout the first half, Fremantle had their chances to win the first quarter but careless errors cost them on the scoreboard.
Nick Riewoldt was fantastic in the first. He marked twice inside 50, the first he used to set up a Dal Santo goal and the other he bagged himself from the set shot.
Zac Clarke’s athleticism, despite being a gangly giant, continues to impress and he was able to sidestep a defender in the goal square to kick Freo’s first. Ryan Crowley added a second when he pushed forward after his tagging responsibility, Dal Santo, went to the bench and kicked a goal on the run.
But Fremantle gave up the lead shortly before quarter-time when a stupid Dawson turnover allowed Sam Gilbert to goal.
Aaron Sandilands kicked the first goal of the second quarter, towering over his defender and marking easily. The Dockers gave gifted opportunities to the Saints but misses to Brendan Goddard and Stephen Milne, among others, kept Fremantle in the picture.
Matthew Pavlich delivered a weighted ball into an open 50 allowing Tendai Mzungu a goal but it was negated when some beautiful ground work by St Kilda bigs Rhys Stanley and Ben McEvoy created another Gilbert goal.
When Riewoldt missed a gettable set shot, Freo blazed a path to the other end and Chris Mayne nabbed his second goal of the game courtesy of some brilliant playing making by Pavlich and Ballantyne, leveling the scores, but another careless turnover right before halftime gave Justin Koschitzke a goal and the Saints a six point lead.
Freo were better in the third and built a 15 point lead in a well execute quarter. Pavlich and Joel Anthony kicked majors to begin the term until the Saints got one via Koschitzke courtesy of a Nick Riewoldt delivery.
Anthony and Koschitzke traded another pair before a Matt De Boer goal gave Fremantle an eight point lead with 3:44 remaining in the quarter.
Zac Clarke added another piece of brilliance before the siren, taking on a defender and kicking a running goal from the 50 meter mark on the left side boundary.
But the visitors looked a little shocked under the pressure to begin the fourth. The Saints put on a great press and kept the ball inside the forward 50 for a lengthy period of time, creating a number of nail-biting moments.
Their defensive intelligence allowed them to kick two goals through Stanley and Cripps and sneak ahead by a point but Fremantle found their composure, collected themselves and retook the momentum.
The breakthrough came from Clancee Pearce, unmarked 35 out as Freo sprinted forward in transition. Another Saints slipup allowed Mzungu to goal as the Dockers ran through the middle with great skill.
A Milne goal cut the lead to just six but Greg Broughton, quiet the entire second half, lifted in the final moments and provided a goal to seal the match.
Stephen Hill was brilliant in the second half, breaking free from his tagger, and his running enabled Fremantle to break from the Saints pressure. Ryan Crowley did an excellent job on star St Kilda midfielder Nick Dal Santo and restricted him to just 18 possessions.
Matthew Pavlich’s presence was fantastic, as was Michael Barlow, who had 30 touches.
For the Saints, Koschitzke kicked three but they didn’t get enough from Riewoldt who disappeared after halftime. Lenny Hayes was terrific with 30 touches of his own and Goddard had 27 but wasn’t as influential as in past weeks.
Fremantle head back to Perth to take on Carlton next Saturday while the Saints draw the lowly Demons.