With just a near-goalless first half to its name and a rampaging Richmond outfit all over them early, the unlikeliest thing for St Kilda at Norwood Oval - other than a goal - looked to be a win.

But football is a funny game and you just can’t rule anything out, especially a come-from-behind triumph from the clouds.

St Kilda’s first goal for the game off former Tiger Jack Higgins’ boot came with a minute left in the first half, however a lively - and admittedly surprising - resurgence after the main break turned the Tigers-dominated contest on its head and into a seven-point nail-biter by the final siren.

The Tigers attempted to claw back control as their opposition pulled ahead midway through the third term, but fight and fight and win the Saints eventually did, prevailing 9.6 (60) to 9.13 (67) in heart-racing fashion.

Ross Lyon’s quarter-time and half-time rev-up ignited the Saints after their scratchy start to the game, with noticeably upped pressure around the contest and efficiency heading into attack seeing them bag eight of the 12 second-half majors.

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Jack Steele (33 disposals), Bradley Hill (27) and Rowan Marshall (23) rose to the occasion after half-time, while Zaine Cordy and Callum Wilkie shored up the defensive end before Darcy Wilson chimed in with two brilliant efforts in down back late to ward off the charging Tigers.

For Richmond, Shai Bolton was an ever-present threat with four dazzling goals in the absence of Tom Lynch (hamstring) and Noah Balta (knee), while Dustin Martin was prolific on return with 30 touches and benefitted off the ruck dominance of skipper Toby Nankervis.

Although Richmond’s lead was only ever as large as 23 points, the discrepancy in skill and speed made it feel far wider before the Saints kicked into gear after half-time with Lyon's direct feedback as ammunition.

It was a far cry from the error-riddled and, at times, sluggish opening half as the Tigers’ speed and pace - headlined by the electric Bolton (four goals) - left their opposition in their wake.

The Tigers had no difficulty in finding plenty of space in the small confines of Norwood Oval early to surge forward with real speed and hit targets; three marks inside-50 to Rioli, Bolton and Mykelti Lefau yielding the Tigers’ first two of the day.

The lively Bolton soon made it three, and then four without reply as the situation worsened for Ross Lyon’s men, and although both sides were remarkably even on the stats sheet at quarter-time, the Tigers’ speed while on the attack left the Saints with no answers.

Lyon lamented his side’s lack of spread and work-rate around stoppages, and when compounded with butchered forward opportunities, allowed the Tigers to remain in the box seat.

A second-quarter slog was much-improved in comparison, and although slowing the Tigers somewhat, wasted scoreboard opportunities ran rife. Forward entries proved easy pickings for the Tigers defence of Nick Vlastuin and Jayden Short until Higgins finally kicked his side’s first of the day with 30 seconds left in the first half.

After being close to welded shut in the first term, the scoring gates finally opened up as a fired-up Tim Membrey, Darcy Wilson and Anthony Caminiti kicked true to level scores; a situation which seemed unthinkable after the Saints’ lacklustre first half.

It was Bolton who again reared his head and was the most constant threat of the afternoon, dribbling through a classy goal off the back of a crunching Rioli rundown tackle to reestablish the Tigers’ ascendancy.

But not to be undone though was King, who after spilling a simple chest mark made fast amends with a cracking snap on his right foot - which then curled in to the left - to swing the lead in the Saints’ favour for the first time of the afternoon.


Bolton again offered reply as both sides traded majors and produced their own slices of magic heading into a frantic final term, first through Tyler Sonsie, then through the rocket-like boot of Riley Bonner.

From that long-range missile, it was the Saints who held control in the palpitation-inducing finish. It didn’t come without its frights, with two score reviews in the final 30 seconds - which would have put Richmond within a straight kick - both getting St Kilda fingernails on them to deny a late clinch from the yellow and black.

Sorry about that!

Jack Higgins’ celebration when he bagged St Kilda’s first goal of the game was very subdued, however his second as his side’s tails were up was quite the opposite. Streaming into an open goal with 15 seconds remaining in the third quarter, the No. 1 launched the Sherrin out of the stadium (to rival the distance of Riley Bonner’s subsequent goal), grabbed a quick hug from a Saints fan over the fence and went about his way as his side put the foot down late.

Darcy, take a bow

Darcy Wilson would be forgiven for letting the rush of blood get to him just four games into his career, however his two moments deep in defence affirmed composure beyond his years. After a spilled ball and the Tigers’ claws out as they mounted their final assault, Wilson slapped the ball into space to get the Saints out of danger, before a brilliant rundown tackle on Tyler Sonsie moments later in the dying minute halted the yellow and black’s late surge.

Darcy Wilson and Marlion Pickett contest for the football. Photo: AFL Photos.

Experience outranks everything

St Kilda’s up-and-coming youth may be dominating headlines under Ross Lyon’s new-look side, but Sunday showed just how important experience is. Skipper Jack Steele elevated after half-time to lead all-comers with 33 disposals to continue his strong start to the year and fourth season as skipper. Rowan Marshall dug in against Toby Nankervis, and although his Richmond counterpart had his number by the end, his tenacity was unmatched as the Saints fought on late. Seb Ross was again a firm contributor through the middle, while Tim Membrey had several big moments late - both deep in defence and in front of goal - after a quiet first half. 

RICHMOND  4.1  5.3  7.3  9.6 (60)
0.4  1.5  7.11  9.13 (67)

Bolton 4, M. Rioli 2, Lefau, Koschitzke, Sonsie
St Kilda: Higgins 2, Membrey, Wilson, Caminiti, King, Owens, Bonner, Marshall

Bolton, Nankervis, Martin, Taranto, D. Rioli, M. Rioli
St Kilda:
Steele, Marshall, Hill, Wilkie, Battle, Wanganeen-Milera, Bonner, Cordy

Dow (ankle), McAuliffe (ankle)
St Kilda: 
Hill (shin)

Kane McAuliffe replaced Thomson Dow in the third quarter
St Kilda:
Angus Hastie replaced Zak Jones in the fourth quarter

9,425 at Norwood Oval