The unprecedented blockbuster between ladder leaders Geelong and St Kilda exceeded all expectations, with just six points splitting the two after an epic encounter.
In the end it was only a superhuman effort from Saints ruckman Michael Gardiner to pull down a monstrous pack mark in the goal square, then nail his fourth goal of the afternoon to clinch victory for his side.
In a fascinating game that ebbed and flowed, St Kilda got off to a flyer, hitting the Cats with five goals before the 2007 Premiers managed two majors of their own.
By that stage, though, the gauntlet was well and truly thrown down and Geelong knew that if it wanted to take the points it was going to have to work damn hard to do so.
Steve Johnson’s absence was a blow, particularly as the Geelong forward line seemed to miss the goalscoring firepower that was on show at the other end of the ground.
Indeed, while the Saints titans Nick Riewoldt and Justin Koschitzke took 22 marks and kicked 5 goals between them, Cameron Mooney managed 2 goals but Tom Hawkins only had 5 possessions for the game and zero impact.
On each line there were fierce contests. In the middle it was Bartel and Selwood leading the charge for the Cats, with fierce attack on the footy the order of the day.
St Kilda countered with Lenny Hayes’ intensity and the penetrating, precise kicking of Leigh Montagna and Brendan Goddard.
Superstar Gary Ablett worked hard, netting two goals but challenged strongly by Clinton Jones, who played a good game.
As Geelong challenged again and again, as champion sides do, the Saints showed they are September material by standing firm.
The backline for St Kilda was resolute as it has been all season, with Sam Gilbert, Sam Fisher and Jason Blake all outpointing their opponents.
Although this game confirmed these two sides are at the front of the pack hunting the 2009 Premiership, a third challenger signaled its intent on Saturday night.
The Western Bulldogs, in their demolition of Hawthorn, seem to have stepped up another level.
It is easy to forget that the Bulldogs should have beaten Geelong a few weeks ago, but know no-one can deny they will push both the Saints and the Cats the next time they meet.
Filled under: Lead Stories