St Kilda are believing again after getting their AFL finals bid back on track with a thrilling come-from-behind win against West Coast.
A week after being rocked by Port Adelaide star Robbie Gray’s last-gasp winner, Alan Richardson’s Saints scored a morale-boosting 15.13 (103) to 14.11 (95) win on Sunday afternoon.
The stakes were high at Etihad Stadium with the Eagles and Saints eighth and 11th respectively going into round 20.
With their finals hopes on the line, St Kilda trailed by 14 points early in the last quarter but held their nerve and rattled through three unanswered goals to hit the lead then hang on for a pulsating win.
“I’m just so pleased for the boys … we couldn’t have been any more dominant in the last quarter, but weren’t able to really get reward,” Richardson said.
“It was just one of those games for the players to just get the satisfaction of being able to come in and sing the song after working so hard is really pleasing.”
The Saints remain in 11th spot with the win but are now the last team in a group of four sides with 10-9 records who are battling it out for a finals berth.
West Coast, in ninth, are one of those clubs but Adam Simpson’s team looks vulnerable after they suffered their fifth loss in Melbourne this season.
“We did a lot right … I thought the boys were pretty brave but couldn’t sustain it in the end,” Simpson said.
“When we got it in our front half we looked quite dangerous so I’m going to look at the glass half-full on this one.
“I think the effort and intent is there but the ability to execute all day is obviously something we’re working on.”
There was just one point in it as the clock ticked down the dying minutes, but Jack Billings marked and kicked the sealer with less than 30 seconds left in a pulsating contest.
Jack Steele was outstanding for the home side with 26 possessions, 10 tackles and two goals, with Blake Acres (30 disposals) and Billings (25 touches, two goals) also important.
Josh Kennedy kicked five goals for the Eagles, with Sam Mitchell (23 possessions) and Andrew Gaff (30) also influential.
The Saints face another key test on Sunday when they face 10th-placed Melbourne at the MCG, while the Eagles return home to host Carlton on Saturday night.
Retiring star Nick Riewoldt finished the match in the concussion protocol after a head clash with Dom Sheed, but the club is confident he will be cleared to play next week.