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Saints star’s perfect response to the haters

St Kilda goalsneak Jack Higgins has put the ‘Missy Higgins’ barbs in the rear view with a deadeye performance against Sydney that kept St Kilda’s slim finals hopes alive.

Last time the Saints faced the Swans, coach Brett Ratten was left fuming over the criticism of his wayward forward, who booted 1.6 in the Round 12 loss.

But, this time, Higgins’ radar was perfectly calibrated, the plucky small forward booting four goals – three in the first half without a miss – as the Saints powered to a 29-point victory over the Swans.

There are some similarities in the way prime movers Jack Steele and Luke Parker carry themselves and the two captains led their respective teams with aplomb.

They almost cancelled each other out — Steele dominating with a goal and 34 disposals, while Parker had 29. Bradley Hill (26 disposals) provided trademark run and carry, while Dean Kent added three goals for the Saints.

Rowan Marshall, with a career-high 25 possessions, monstered Tom Hickey in the ruck – even if he did end up on the wing during an amusing moment of the second quarter when Darragh Joyce contested the centre bounce.

The victory for St Kilda snapped a three-game losing streak and broke a run of five straight wins for the Swans. In fact, it is just the second time the Saints have beaten Sydney in their past 13 contests.

They need to keep winning and hope for a minor miracle to happen above them to sneak an unlikely finals spot.

Both sides wore custom jerseys to celebrate Pride Game. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)Source:Getty Images

Land of the giants

On paper, the key post match-ups at both ends looked like a nightmare for the defenders.

The Saints, with no Dougal Howard or James Frawley, gave Callum Wilkie the unenviable task of stopping Lance Franklin, who enjoyed 8cm and 20kg on his opponent. At the other, Max King towered over Dane Rampe, standing 13cms taller.

But the smaller men more than held their own.

Franklin was held to just two disposals at halftime – one courtesy of a free kick and the other at centre half back when he went looking for a touch – and managed just one goal for the match.

Rampe made a point of roughing up King before the match. King booted two goals and was a target, but the Swan at least broke even, before the big Saint was subbed off with what appeared to be a groin injury.

Buddy needs 14 goals in the next two weeks to reach the 1000 mark before the end of the regular season.

The Swans’ master architect

One of the few joys of watching the footy without a crowd is hearing what goes on out in the middle.

And the biggest takeaway from this game is how important Rampe is to Sydney’s structure.

The man does not stop talking. He’s the loudest player on the ground and everything he says is instructional.

“Tommy, you dominate that space, I’ve got your back,” he bellowed at defender Tom McCartin in the second term.

“Adjust, you’ve got King, Tommy, you’ve got King!”

They might not have won, but that’s the kind of leadership you get from a 187-game co-captain, adjudged the game’s most courageous player in 2020.

Jack Steele was influential for the Saints, chalking up 34 disposals to go with his one goal and six clearances. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images

Sharman’s Saintly spirit

St Kilda fans would be happy with what they have seen from mid-season draft pick Cooper Sharman.

The 21-year-old threaded the needle beautifully to kick the Saints’ first goal from the pocket, hard up against the boundary line.

The next play, he took a great contested mark on the wing and later booted the sealer as Sydney looked to challenge.

Razor Ray’s milestone

Love him or hate him, you have to admire Ray Chamberlain’s persistence.

Footy’s most famous – or notorious – umpire presided over game No. 350 and he made his presence felt early, handing a free kick for Buddy’s first goal – making the decision from more than 50m away.

Across 17 years, Razor has officiated three grand finals and 29 finals.

“He’s a character who brings a real flare to the game that we can appreciate in our own ways,” Nick Riewoldt said on Fox Footy pre-game.

“A resilient man, he cops it from across the fence, he cops it from the players and he’s done it with a smile.”

SCOREBOARD

ST KILDA: 5.0 8.2 12.4 14.9 (93)

SYDNEY: 4.1 5.2 8.4 10.4 (64)

GOALS

Saints: Higgins 4, Kent 3, Membrey 2, Sharman 2, King 2, Steele

Swans: Dawson 2 Papley 2 Gulden 2 Hayward 2, Florent, Franklin

MICHAEL RANDALL’S BEST

Saints: Steele, Marshall, Higgins, Wilkie, Hill, Sinclair, Highmore

Swans: Parker, Lloyd, Kennedy, Florent, Dawson, Papley,

MICHAEL RANDALL’S VOTES

3 – Steele (StK)

2 – Marshall (StK)

1 – Higgins (StK)

INJURIES

Saints: Max King (groin)

Swans: Callum Mills (Achilles), replaced in selected side by Ryan Clarke

Umpires: Foot, Fisher, Chamberlain

Venue: Marvel Stadium

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