The St Kilda Saints crashed the 200-game milestone party for Brisbane captain Dayne Zorko and continued to breathe life into their 2021 campaign with a stunning 32-point victory at Metricon Stadium on Saturday night.
The Saints marched to their third-straight win to stay right in the hunt for the top eight, while the Lions suffered the double blow of losing young gun Eric Hipwood to a suspected ACL injury.
St Kilda has claimed the scalps of Richmond, Collingwood and the Lions since its bye, improving its record to 8-8, while the Lions’ grip on a top four spot loosened as they fell to an 11-5 record.
And Brisbane will struggle to fill the void left by Hipwood, who clutched at his left knee after landing awkwardly following a marking contest late in the first quarter and was rushed into the Lions’ rooms where the news was all bad for Brisbane.
Hipwood has been a vital cog in the Lions’ forward line with 26 goals to his name in 2021 and has played 110 of Brisbane’s last 113 games. His ‘twin towers’ combination with Joe Daniher has been one of the chief reasons for Brisbane’s surge into the top four.
His absence will test the side’s forward depth but it was the Lions’ backline that was under siege all night against the rampant Saints, who kicked away from Brisbane in the final term after dominating for much of the contest.
The Saints had heroes all over the ground, with the midfield of Luke Dunstan, Zak Jones and Jack Steele winning plenty of ball, forwards Max King and Tim Membrey hitting the scoreboard and defender Jimmy Webster shutting Charlie Cameron out of the game.
The lead changed hands a number of times in the third term after Brisbane came out with all guns blazing to start the second half, only for the Saints to respond emphatically as they owned the back-half of the term to enjoy a 13-point buffer at the last change.
St Kilda held a 10-point buffer at halftime but could have been further in front given its upper hand in field position and possession in the second term when King kicked three of the five goals for the visitors.
Brisbane extended its quarter-time advantage through Cal Ah Chee and Zorko, before the Saints went on their five-goal tear that was built on a glut of inside 50 entries and superiority in the clearances.
Brisbane led by two points at quarter-time despite St Kilda enjoying the better of the contest in the opening term. The Saints brought plenty of pressure and physicality early to limit the time and space for Brisbane, who struggled to hit targets.
St Kilda kicked the first goal of the match through Brad Crouch as a reward for the side’s highly contested effort, but Brisbane responded through Zorko just before quarter-time when Hipwood left the field.
The Lions couldn’t get a win for Dayne Zorko in his 200th game. (Photo by Chris Hyde/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
Brisbane fullback Harris Andrews has double trouble on his hands for the next decade with his match-up with the King brothers.
Andrews sees plenty of Ben King when the Lions take on the Suns but it was Max King who terrorised Brisbane with three of St Kilda’s five goals in the stunning second quarter surge. King was too big and too strong in the aerial contests for Andrews, who normally owns the skies and rarely gets beaten by a direct opponent.
King finished with the three goals but the Saints found other avenues to goal in the second half as they ran over the top of the Lions, who had no answer to the St Kilda onslaught.
All that glitters isn’t Gold Coast
Metricon Stadium has not been a field of dreams for Brisbane’s young guns in 2021. Cam Rayner did his knee in Brisbane’s pre-season clash with the Suns at Carrara in March, while Eric Hipwood suffered a suspected ACL injury on Saturday.
Hipwood crashed to the turf after landing awkwardly from a marking contest in the first term and immediately clutched at his knee.
He hobbled off the field with the assistance of Lions medical staff and was rushed straight into Brisbane’s rooms.
His likely absence will cause problems for Brisbane’s forward line structure for the rest of the 2021 campaign.
Dayne Zorko has been incredibly consistent and resilient in his first 200 games. The Lions captain missed just seven games on his way to the double ton.
Cardboard face masks, stubby coolers, caps, t-shirts and other merchandise was available for fans to celebrate the milestone while his son Louis showed a nice turn of foot when he ran out onto the ground with his dad.
Zorko lifted in his milestone game with three first half goals but there was only so much that the captain could do.
No more sinning for Saints
St Kilda’s reaction to their capitulation to the Crows in Cairns in Round 13 has been very real and very significant. The Saints bounced back after the bye with wins over Richmond and Collingwood and took the fight up to the Lions from the opening bounce.
Their pressure was first class and threw Brisbane out of its normal flow. Their own ball movement had the Lions backline under siege for extended periods and came after they were prepared to get down and dirty and win the contested ball.
The way the Saints responded to Brisbane’s blistering start to the third term was impressive as they absorbed the pressure then threw plenty of their own punches.
LIONS: 1.5 4.8 7.8 8.15 (63)
SAINTS: 1.3. 6.6 9.9 14.11 (95)
LIONS: Zorko 3, Ah Chee, Bailey, Daniher, McStay, Birchall
SAINTS: King 3, Membrey 2, Steele 2, Byrnes 2, Crouch, Billings, Connolly, Long, McKenzie
Greg Davis’ best:
LIONS: Zorko, Neale, Rich, McCluggage, Adams
SAINTS: Dunstan, Steele, Webster, Jones, Billings, King
LIONS: Eric Hipwood (knee), Brandon Starcevich (neck)
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Greg Davis’ votes:
3: Jack Steele
2: Luke Dunstan
1: Jimmy Webster
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