St Kilda Coach Alan Richardson lamented the wide gulf in midfield depth and class against Sydney on Saturday night, indicating that his side was ‘very badly beaten around the ball’.
After a fierce arm wrestle in the opening half, the Swans were dominant after half-time with their onball brigade driving them to a 15 goal to four second half, resulting in a 70-point win.
With Brownlow medal favourites Dan Hannebery (37 disposals and 10 inside 50s) and Luke Parker (33 disposals, five clearances and five inside 50s) and dual All Australian Josh Kennedy (35 disposals and seven clearances) dictating terms around the ball, the Saints simply had no answers at Etihad Stadium.
Richardson admitted he was surprised by St Kilda’s second half fadeout and conceded that the Saints were resoundingly beaten on both the inside and outside, as the numbers attest to.
“They were just too good in the contest. Their midfield versus our midfield there was a bit of a gap. It was inside and outside really, we just got beaten very badly around the ball,” Richardson told reporters in his post-match press conference on Saturday night.
“Physically the numbers actually (weren’t too poor). Our pressure was positive, our tackle numbers were reasonably positive, but just our ability to execute and strip and drag them down in tackle was nowhere near as good as theirs.
“It was disappointing. It was if the guys completely ran out of legs and just didn’t quite have the real appetite for the brutal contest after half-time, which is surprising.
“We acknowledge that they’ve got a bit more depth and a bit more experience, but we’ve got some good players in there that have been in good form, so we have high expectation and we expect them to bounce back.
“But some of our young blokes got pretty good lessons tonight and they’re great opportunities for our young guys.”
St Kilda registered more tackles (+26) than Sydney, but were well beaten in almost every other key indicator: disposals (-97), clearances (-5), inside 50s (-12) and contested possessions (-12).
For the second week in a row, Richardson singled out West Australian midfielder Blake Acres in his post mortem, praising the 20-year-old for his effort against a premiership contender.
Acres gathered over 20 possessions for the third game in succession, this time finishing with 23 possessions (10 contested), five tackles and five rebound 50s.
“I though Acres was really positive again in a really intense game against a quality team in and around the ball but there’s many lessons for a lot of our guys,” Richardson said.