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On This Day: Saints stun Bulldogs with half-time comeback

The Saints celebrate after coming back from a 55-point deficit. Watch highlights from the Bulldogs' round six clash with St Kilda at Etihad Stadium.

A 55-point deficit at any stage of a game is less than ideal.

A 55-point deficit at the five-minute mark of the third term is enough for any side or supporter to mentally pack their bags and prepare for next week.

That’s just what St Kilda fans were getting ready to do after Jake Stringer slotted his fourth goal of the game, with the margin threatening to blow out even further.

But it was on this day in 2015 when St Kilda’s resolve came out on top, with the Saints suddenly turning the tables to pull off an incredible seven-point victory over the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium.

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In what was just its second win of the season, St Kilda’s triumph equalled the fifth biggest comeback in AFL/VFL history and the club’s equal-largest come-from-behind success, with the other stunning win coming against Hawthorn in 1937.

Incredibly, Alan Richardson’s men led for just eight minutes, not hitting the front until the 115th minute courtesy of a Tom Hickey major.

The Saints had kicked a meagre 2.3 to half-time, and as the red, white and black faithful prepared themselves for a hiding and a fourth consecutive loss, it was the complete opposite for the Bulldogs.

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Luke Beveridge’s men were running rampant, with a Jake Stringer inspired opening half (three goals), a Liam Picken masterclass and a seven-goal second term catapulting the Dogs to a 49-point advantage at the main change.

A half-time scuffle between the two sides only exacerbated the Saints’ frustration, and with Stringer slotting his fourth in the opening minutes of the third term, St Kilda fans were desperate for that final siren to sound.

But it was the spark which kicked St Kilda into gear.

In a subsequent performance that floored the 29,000-strong crowd, the Saints surged to life, piling on 12 goals to three to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Seven goals in the third term put the Saints within just two straight kicks, before another five goals and a perfectly-timed run of form put their noses in front with just minutes to spare.

David Armitage was absolutely superb all afternoon, amassing a career-high 45 disposals (16 contested), eight clearances and a goal, while Leigh Montagna’s 27 touches were equally influential in driving their side to the remarkable triumph. 

But it was Jack Billings who was the biggest star, with the then 19-year-old booting four second-half majors, 22 disposals and seven inside 50s.

His last term was what ultimately got the Saints over the line, with the last 20 minutes of play resulting in three goals, five inside 50s, 10 disposals, and four contested possessions.

Jack Billings and David Armitage soak in the stunning achievements of the afternoon.

While it’s easy to look at the stats sheet and see the influence of players by the numbers, it was the unwavering belief that the game could still be won which outweighed all individual achievements.

It was the perfect exhibition of a side refusing to give in, even when the situation seemed so dire.

The raucous cheers and from the St Kilda faithful only reaffirmed the stunning efforts of the 22 Saints that day, with the accomplishments engrained into VFL/AFL history.

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From sheer dejection to utter disbelief to unbridled jubilation, it was a game which epitomised just what footy is to so many people.

Alan Richardson admitted post-match the Saints “didn’t see it coming”.

If truth be told, no one else did either.

WESTERN BULLDOGS   3.3  10.3  11.6   13.9  (87)
ST KILDA   2.2   2.3    9.6   14.10  (94)

Western Bulldogs:
 Stringer 4, Picken 2, Goodes, Stevens, Wood, Crameri, Dahlhaus, Cordy, Honeychurch
St Kilda: Billings 4, Sinclair 2, Hickey 2, Schneider, Riewoldt, Lonie, Dunstan, Bruce, Armitage

Western Bulldogs:
 Picken, Stringer, Johannisen, Dickson, Macrae, Goodes, Wood
St Kilda: Armitage, Billings, Steven, Schneider, Fisher, Newnes, Sinclair