St Kilda’s AFL final hopes are dashed with the Western Bulldogs and Marcus Bontempelli regaining the form to annoy the Saints by 28 points.
The Bulldogs were never headed at Docklands Stadium on Friday night as they broke through the first seven goals and led by 36 points at the break.
St Kilda chipped away on a 50-point three-quarters time deficit late, but the injury had already happened when the Bulldogs secured a 13.6 (84) to 7.14 (56) victory.
The Bulldogs (9-8) got a losing run in two games to recreate their own top-eight hopes and jump St Kilda percentage into a ninth place finish in the rankings.
As a big boost for last year’s beaten big finalists, Bontempelli regained his status as one of the AFL’s elite players after battling injuries for most of the season.
Bulldogs captain and other Premiership star Tom Liberatore revolted to set the match up in midfield as they dominated St Kilda in the clearings 21-10 during the first half.
Bontempelli, Liberatore, Jack Macrae and Bailey Smith, returning from their head-on suspension and drug ban, amassed 71 possessions between them at the break.
After the Saints came back to within 22 points, Bontempelli missed the small chance of a historic comeback by hitting his second goal to finish with a detrimental 34 ball possession.
Key forward Josh Bruce, who played his first AFL game in almost a year, was quiet, but it will take time to get back in shape after an ACL injury.
Number one draft pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan had one of the best matches of his early career, scoring three goals in the absence of star forward Aaron Naughton (health and safety records).
After sitting in the top-four when they were 8-3, St Kilda have since lost five of their last six games with a difficult draw to end the season.
To add to their pain, veteran ruckman Paddy Ryder suffered an Achilles injury in the third quarter and was exposed to Ben Long.
The Saints added some respect to the result during an improved effort in the final quarter, but that will not be enough to escape scrutiny for one of the most sluggish performances by any AFL team this season.