‘It was just the persistence of our pressure’ – mighty Saints comeback started from the middle: Ratten

Brad Crouch (R) was key to the Saints comeback over the Eagles on Saturday evening. Photo: St Kilda FC

After a horror loss to the Bombers in round three, St. Kilda has responded in style against the Eagles.

The game was hanging in the balance at half-time, the Saints down by 28 points and struggling to wrestle back momentum.

Coach Brett Ratten was incredibly pleased with the fight his side showed to wrestle the momentum back.

Two players in particular in Brad Crouch and Jack Bytel were key to the second half resurgence, laying 19 tackles between them.

“Jack’s trying to cement his spot and really start to get his career going and Crouchy’s just come to a new club,” Ratten said.

“He [Crouch] is trying to make sure he puts an imprint at St. Kilda.

“We had a lot of players down last week, but for him to respond with what he did, it was really pleasing.

“You can’t win every game, but you can’t win every clearance either, so what are you doing when we don’t win it? That’s what I thought we did really well today.”

Crouch in particular caught his coach’s eye, responding strongly after a slow debut in Saints colours against Essendon.

Ratten believes criticisms levied at Crouch for being a one-note player have been shattered after his past two weeks.

“He’s got his body right, and his ability to [have] fast feet and spread is pretty good,” he said.

“That’s a criticism you come under sometimes as a player, but I think he can play at half forward.

“Last week he went to half forward for us in a game we didn’t play that well and had two or three shots at goal which is encouraging as well.”

The return of ruckman Rowan Marshall was a hotly anticipated one.

With the Saints missing Paddy Ryder and resting SANFL recruit Paul Hunter last weekend, his presence was sorely missed.

While he lost the hit out count, Ratten was pleased with the second efforts he provided.

“I thought Ro, first up, he did a reasonable job to get himself up to play and he put his hand up which was really pleasing,” he said.

“It helped structurally, not just with what he did. I thought Carlisle around there was really good, contributed and it’s a spot he hasn’t played much before. He was really open to it and really embraced it, and I thought he did a really good job.

“It’s the connection whether you win the hits or you don’t win the hits, it’s the ground level players.

“Steele, Jones and Crouch got pretty busy around the ball and gave us first use at times. Bytel, he’s starting to show some signs.

“Those three or four really led the charge around the ball and put a lot of heat on the opposition.”

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An injury scare to Marshall in the second quarter had Saints hearts beating out of chests.

Thankfully for Ratten, his time on the bench was precautionary at best.

“He just felt a bit of a twist in that foot, so we went down and checked that but he was fine,” he said.

“He could have come on with maybe five minutes to go [in the second], but we said it’s five minutes to go, Jake’s [Carlisle] going well, so keep him there and look after him.”

One of the few slights on the Saints game was their conversion in front of goal.

30 shots on goal resulted in a score of 15.12, though the Saints ended up converting more inside 50s than the efficient Eagles.

This included nine inside 50s straight to start the third quarter, which only resulted in a single goal.

“We’ll go through that, about some of the kick choices and where we kicked the ball,” Ratten said.

“We didn’t give the ball to some of the forwards at times, to their advantage, but sometimes that happens in the game. You have momentum, and if the ball’s stuck in your half there’s no space.

“Sometimes you have longer shots and you’ve got to capitalise and we just couldn’t do that.”

Ultimately that same pressure and diligence around the contest got St. Kilda over the line.

The Saints won the inside 50 count 53-36, and the clearance count 45-30.

“I think it was just the persistence of our pressure,” Ratten said.

“We got into a groove, and the players just kept going, there was no sort of break in it. That’s a credit to them because sometimes that is a mindset, fatigue sets in and you drop away in certain areas.

“[It was] the players, just to stick at it and finally get our reward on the scoreboard but keep the game in our half which was good.”

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