Ben Rutten hasn’t shown a lot of emotion in his brief time as Essendon coach, but he was caught cracking a smile a few times in his side’s 75-point routing of St Kilda at Marvel Stadium on Saturday.
Who could blame him? After having copped plenty of criticism just two games into his tenure, for reasons ranging from his side’s play to where he coached from (he was in the box on Saturday), the Bombers put on a scintillating display to give Rutten his first win as they crushed the limp Saints, 22.11 (143) to 9.14 (68).
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The warning signs were there for St Kilda early. Jack Steele was typically influential, but he didn’t get any support as the Bombers shot to an early lead.
Then as the margin grew, St Kilda’s intensity dropped even further. Some of the Saints’ errors in the final term were disappointing in what was an embarrassing performance.
Jade Gresham will take no further part in today's match with an Achilles injury. pic.twitter.com/Ak8RlY0HLM— St Kilda FC (@stkildafc) April 3, 2021
An Achilles tendon injury to Jade Gresham soured their night further and he was spotted on crutches with his right leg in a moon boot.
The Saints slipped to 1-2 and, if they’re going to be playing in September, things are going to have to turn around very quickly.
The Saints need to lift
Nothing went right for St Kilda. Brad Crouch was quiet in his first game for the club (15 disposals) but he wasn’t on his own, with most of the midfield struggling to have an impact. The Saints were outworked and their meagre tally of 33 tackles, compared to 51 for Essendon, was evidence of that. Bradley Hill started down back and was then sent forward, but failed to have an impact at either end, while Gresham could be out for a while. St Kilda will need to recapture the form that saw them make a semi-final last year, but it will be a difficult next few weeks as it comes up against West Coast, Richmond and Port Adelaide.
Brutal blow for Gresham
The injury to Jade Gresham looked bad. Any Achilles tendon issue is a serious concern and the 23-year-old could be set for a lengthy stint on the sidelines. Saints fans will be desperately hoping that’s not the case because Gresham is arguably the most talented player on the list. Repeating their feat of reaching the second week of finals will become a lot harder if the nimble midfielder/forward is going to miss an extended period of time.
ESSENDON 6.4 12.6 16.10 22.11 (143)
ST KILDA 3.3 4.5 6.9 9.14 (68)
Essendon: Hooker 5, Stringer 4, McDonald-Tipungwuti 3, Snelling 2, Waterman 2, Jones 2, Cox, Redman, McGrath, Smith
St Kilda: Higgins 3, Billings 2, Membrey, Crouch, Steele, King
Essendon: Parish, Merrett, Stringer, Hooker, Ham, Ridley, Smith
St Kilda: Steele, Membrey
Essendon: Redman (right hamstring)
St Kilda: Gresham (right Achilles tendon), Jones (right ankle)
Essendon: Tom Cutler (replaced Mason Redman)
St Kilda: Ben Long (replaced Jade Gresham)