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Pierce, Ross fight on

Michael Ryan  August 11, 2018 6:03 PM

23-year-old Saint Lewis Pierce held his own against in-form Bombers ruckman Tom Bellchambers. - St Kilda Saints,Lewis Pierce,Sebastian Ross

23-year-old Saint Lewis Pierce held his own against in-form Bombers ruckman Tom Bellchambers.

Friday night produced a quintessentially gloomy Melbourne outlook, and unfortunately for Saints fans, their team’s second half was equally uninviting.

Marred by poor ball use and frequent, costly turnovers, Alan Richardson’s side eventually fell to a depleted Essendon by 43 points, having been competitive for the majority of the first half.

On a night where highlights were few and far between, a handful of Saints tried their hardest to quell the onslaught.

READ: Richardson: We hurt ourselves badly

Lewis Pierce came back into the senior side after over two years plying his trade in the VFL, first at Sandringham, then at Frankston.

At 203cm and with a more matured frame than when Saints fans last saw him in the red, white and black, Pierce wasn’t overawed by the occasion and put together a solid showing in the ruck.

The 23-year-old won a game-high 27 hit-outs and held his own against Essendon’s Tom Bellchambers, but it was his work around the ground that impressed the senior coach most (18 disposals, six contested possessions, two tackles).

“I was really pleased with Lewis tonight,” Richardson said post-match.

“I thought he did some really good work for us, particularly early in the game with his follow-up and his ruckwork – Bellchambers has been in really good form, so that was pleasing.

“He’s been building his game, and you look at tonight’s performance, and possibly we could’ve had him in a bit earlier (in the season) … he was really strong for us.”

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In his 100th game, Seb Ross worked himself to exhaustion, bettering his career-high 40-disposal haul last week to amass 43 touches on Friday night.

The 2017 Trevor Barker Award winner has been one of the Saints’ most consistent performers in 2018, averaging 29.7 disposals and four tackles per game.

“Seb Ross in his 100th was really strong again,” Richardson said.

“He’s been a terrific player for us, our reigning club champion – he plays the right way, Seb – and he did himself proud tonight with the way he played.”

WATCH: Alan Richardson reviews Bombers

Ross, meanwhile, was reluctant to dwell on his own impressive form, and understandably frustrated at another poor result for his side.

“We were disappointing again. I thought we started the game reasonably well … but overall, just a disappointing night,” he told saints.com.au.

“The thing is it’s a team game. We’re not quite where we want to be at the moment, so I’ll keep working on my game, I’ll keep helping the boys work on their game and keep trying to help everyone get to where we want to go.”

The embattled Nathan Freeman booted his first goal in the AFL an incredible 1724 days after being drafted, while debutant Ben Paton joined 'Freeza' on the scoreboard, converting a long-range set shot from an acute angle.

“I thought Ben Paton did some good things,” the senior coach said.

“He had a pretty slow start to the game having been emergency 10 times, so he had to wait a while for his game, but I liked the way he finished off.

WATCH: Highlights (Bombers vs Saints)

“When we were probably not at our best, he lifted, and it was good to see him finish off with a goal.

“He’s got speed, he’s a good user of the footy … he’s got some attributes that mean that he can be flexible, which is exciting for us going forward.”

The Saints return to Etihad Stadium next weekend to face Hawthorn, who will be looking to cement their invitation to September.

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