Saints snuff out Tiger challenge

St Mary's Michael Ryan takes a strong mark despite the athletic defensive efforts of Grovedale's Aaron Gleeson.
Monday, June 23
Geelong Advertiser

ST MARY'S put the accelerator on when it counted to overcome a resilient Grovedale and record a 59-point victory at Burdoo Reserve on Saturday.

The Tigers started strongly and stuck with the Saints up until half time before the league-leaders ran away with it to win 17.12 (114) to 8.7.(55).

Inspired by the appearance of Geelong VFL captain Tim McGrath and a massive home crowd, Grovedale came out firing, their intensity, coupled with a strong cross-ground breeze saw only two goals kicked in the opening term.

The game opened up in the second quarter and the Tigers never looked like falling away, helped with the departure of Will Ainsworth, suffering from a migraine.

Coach Marty Christensen began to shuffle his side around, throwing Matt Bruhn in the forward line followed by ruckman Peter Wilkinson.

St Mary's goaled from a 50-metre penalty after a Bruhn indiscretion but Wilkinson was causing problems for the Saints defence and goaled from a free kick to keep them in touch.

The Saints retained an eight-point half time buffer when Andrew Merriman marked 30 metres from goal and slotted it home from a set shot on the siren.

Burly Saints full forward Zvonimir Suto sparked a St Mary's breakaway in the third term, marking and goaling after only two minutes.

McGrath did the same at the other end, to the delight of the home crowd, but Suto replied quickly.

He kicked two inside a minute from strong marks with the Saints dominating the centre clearances through Tom Gilligan and Frank Fopiani.

Glenn Hauenstein pegged one back for the Tigers, but the Saints forward set up proved too efficient, forward pocket Heath Barton replying quickly.

Suto added another couple, but a McGrath goal only moments before the siren gave the Tigers a faint glimmer of hope.

Merriman and Suto combined to quickly extinguish those hopes as the Saints kicked the first three of the quarter.

Fopiani said his side was prepared for a hard slog.

``It's always hard coming here because it's windy, the big crowd and the McGrath factor, so it was good for our blokes to get over the line,'' Fopiani said.

``It was a very good win, they're were going to be pumped up and it was always going to be tough.

``They were going to be with us for at least a half, so we just had to maintain the pressure, it's what we spoke about on the day.

``In the third quarter we really stepped up and got on top of them.''

Christensen lamented his side's inability to string together four quarter, despite it being the best Grovedale side to run out in two years.

``We had our best side for about two years and that was pretty clear in the first half,'' Christensen said.

``We matched up pretty well and we could have even been in front, but the 50 metre penalty cost us.

``We have got to find a team that can play four quarters of footy.

``They're a good side St Mary's. They're a skilful side and options and experience are the two places where they can throw you around a bit.''