AFL Round 21. 10/08/2018. Essendon v St Kilda at Etihad Stadium. St Kilda's Jarryn Geary leads the Saints off Etihad Stadium. Pic: Michael Klein
AFL Round 21. 10/08/2018. Essendon v St Kilda at Etihad Stadium. St Kilda's Jarryn Geary leads the Saints off Etihad Stadium. Pic: Michael Klein

Saints as bad as they’ve been: Richo

ST KILDA coach Alan Richardson said his team's poor ball use sunk to a new low against Essendon as the Saints failed to capitalise on their rotation domination.

The battered Bombers had no bench in the final quarter yet were still able to cruise to a 43-point win despite making 51-90 interchanges.

Richardson said his team "shot ourselves in the foot" with its sloppy turnovers and failed to cash in on periods of momentum.

Nathan Freeman was mobbed by 16 teammates after kicking the first goal of his career and a hurried snap moments later put the Saints in front during the second quarter.

But the Bombers then booted nine of the next 10 goals despite losing Brendon Goddard (knee) and Adam Saad (concussion) in the first quarter and then Cale Hooker (knee) and Orazio Fantasia (hamstring) in the third term.

Defender Nathan Brown faces suspension for his late bump on Saad and the pair embraced on the final siren.

"We've had some issues with our ball use throughout the year, but that's as bad as we've used it - particularly from the back," Richardson said.

"They've ended up kicking 13 goals from front-half turnover - that's a big number.

"That really sapped a lot of our energy and a lot of our momentum.

"We realised they were a couple down, but if you don't look after the footy then you're not going to be able to capitalise on anything.

"We think we've got some players that are better than what they're showing at the minute."

Ben Paton's second half impressed the coach with the debutant slotting the final goal of the game while Seb Ross gathered a career-best 43 disposals in his 100th game.

Similar to last week, the Saints were helpless to stifle Essendon's momentum as it piled on 4.1 in the final five minutes of the first half.

"For the second week in a row those players need to wear that, and they're not shirking from that at all," Richardson said.

"They know that's the responsibility if you go in at centre bounce you've got to make sure you get it done."

The Saints pushed talented youngsters Jade Gresham and Ben Long into centre bounces at stages and have relocated inside midfielder David Armitage to halfback, similar to Matthew Boyd's transition late in his career.

Richardson said three-time best-and-fairest Jack Stevens was "trying too hard".

"He's rushing around, his method of trying to get our team back on track is to almost do more," he said.

"At times we lose a bit of shape because of it. He'll scream past for a handball receive … and it puts us under pressure.

"While his intent is admirable, sometimes the execution and outcome is not what we're after."

Hunter Clark won't play VFL on Saturday while Nick Coffield was omitted to tidy up the defensive part of his game.

The Saints finish the season with matches against Hawthorn and North Melbourne.



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