IT WAS happening again. Enter Cam Rayner.
As Brisbane looked like being overran by St Kilda on Friday night, and in the midst of another second-half fadeout, Rayner proved the matchwinner.
The 2017 No.1 pick kicked two goals at the start of the last term to haul Brisbane back in front and then extend their lead, and then snapped a third for the quarter in the dying moments to seal the Lions’ 15-point win.
Rayner finished with four goals in the second half – of their five – in what was a crucial win for the Lions’ top-four hopes and a dagger for the Saints’ finals chances as they sit outside the top-eight.
‘HE’LL TURN IT AROUND’ Ratten backs misfiring King
The Saints will kick themselves, having already kicked themselves all but out of the finals race in the 12.9 (81) to 9.12 (66) result. After trailing by 26 points in the second quarter, the Saints had rocketed ahead by three-quarter time with a five-goal term.
But they could have held a much more significant lead if not for inaccuracy, with key forward Max King’s goalkicking struggles again coming to the fore. King racked up shots at goal but booted 0.5 across the night – including four misses from set shots in the second half – which proved to be costly.
The Saints kicked 4.2 in the first half and then 5.10 in the second, with many of the misses more than gettable.
Hugh McCluggage was excellent for the Lions with 24 disposals and a goal, while Daniel Rich was also terrific with 26 disposals. Mason Wood kicked four goals for St Kilda, while youngster Marcus Windhager did an exemplary tagging job on Lachie Neale.
SAINTS v LIONS Full match coverage and stats
Brisbane could have buried the Saints early such was its dominance in the first quarter, with the Lions notching 14 inside-50s to four before the Saints started to get moving.
The game was an armwrestle between the arcs, with a classy Wood goal in the final minute of the quarter pushing the Saints five points ahead before Eric Hipwood kicked a goal on the siren to give the Lions a one-point advantage at the first break.
The Lions put their collective foot down in the second term. They kicked four goals to one to establish a 22-point break and clear dominance. Their talls got more involved as things went on, with Joe Daniher, Daniel McStay and Hipwood all slotting goals in the quarter, with another goal from Wood the only respite the Saints could manage in a lacklustre showing.
But the switch flicked in the third quarter as the Saints stormed back. The Lions were ill-disciplined, with St Kilda making the most of it. Rayner kicked what looked like being a steadying goal for the Lions midway through the term but that sparked the Saints, with Wood and Tim Membrey kicking two goals each for the term to stun the Lions and take a five-point lead into the last change.
Remarkably, it should have even been more, with King’s goalkicking yips continuing with three misses in the quarter.
More shots came in the final quarter for the Saints, with King, Membrey and Windhager missing chances. But Rayner’s class proved the difference at the other end as the Lions made the most of theirs.
Wood on fire
It was one of Mason Wood’s best games in his time at St Kilda. Wood kicked four goals and also set up an important major for Tim Membrey in the third quarter to help the Saints during their rush against the Lions. Wood’s classy left-foot kicking and craft inside-50 was a factor in keeping the Saints in the game before their run after half-time. It was clearly Wood’s best game for the Saints since arriving from North Melbourne ahead of the 2021 season.
Young Saint gets a big scalp
Marcus Windhager continues to pick up valuable experience in his first season at the Saints. The club has used Windhager in tagging roles in recent weeks, including a sensational job against West Coast’s Tim Kelly when he was kept to four disposals in round 19, and again on Friday gave him a task against the raging Brownlow Medal favourite Lachie Neale. Windhager stuck to the task expertly, keeping Neale to nine disposals in the first half whilst also winning nine touches himself, before finishing with 21 disposals and keeping Neale to a total of 16 – his lowest tally this season.
Crouch set for MRO strife
St Kilda midfielder Brad Crouch is set to come under the focus of the Match Review Officer after his heavy and high bump on Brisbane defender Darcy Gardiner. Gardiner was kicking but was collected late by Crouch with a big bump, which also connected with Gardiner’s head. The 150th gamer spent some time on the ground in the help of trainers, but played out the game, which will help Crouch’s cause as he awaits a decision on Saturday.
ST KILDA 3.1 4.2 9.7 9.12 (66)
BRISBANE 3.2 7.6 8.8 12.9 (81)
St Kilda: Wood 4, Membrey 3, Higgins 2
Brisbane: Rayner 4, Daniher 2, Hipwood 2, Cameron, McCarthy, McCluggage, McStay
St Kilda: Wood, Windhager, Membrey, Ross, Sinclair, Marshall
Brisbane: Rayner, McCluggage, Rich, McInerney, Berry
St Kilda: Webster (hamstring)
St Kilda: Zak Jones (replaced Webster in the first quarter)
Brisbane: Ryan Lester