An undermanned St Kilda Saints have produced a late rally to stun the GWS Giants by eight points at a wet Giants Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
After a disappointing 2020 season, the Giants looked like making a winning start to 2021 after building a two-goal lead midway through the last quarter. However, the Saints kicked four of the last five goals to seal the 13.8 (86) to 11.12 (78) victory.
With an incredible amount of rain in Sydney over recent days, the match was played in slippery conditions and it took 16 minutes for Toby Greene to kick the first goal of the match.
It was an arm wrestle throughout with the wet conditions leading to plenty of stoppages and a great contest between the two debutant ruckmen. The Giants Matt Flynn got the better of Paul Hunter in the ruck battle, recording 18 disposals, 34 hitouts and 5 clearances in a promising first game.
The momentum swung back and forth throughout the contest and set up for a tense final quarter with the Saints leading by just three points at three quarter time.
The Giants started the final quarter quickly and kicked two goals through Harry Himmelberg and Jacob Hopper to regain the lead.
Himmelberg and Tim Taranto then had chances to put the Saints away but missed and it proved costly as the game swung once again.
A freakish goal to Jack Lonie in the pocket got the Saints back to within a kick before quick goals to Seb Ross and Tim Membrey gave them a seven-point lead.
Lachie Keefe then drilled a long-range goal for the Giants to bring them back to within one-point and set up a thrilling final four minutes.
The Giants were taking risks as they looked for the match winning goal, but a controversial holding the ball decision against Callan Ward in his defensive 50 gave Dan Butler the chance to seal the game.
Butler went back and calmly slotted the goal to ensure the Saints started 2021 with a win.
While it was a disappointing loss for the Giants, there were several positives to come out of the match including the improved form of skipper Stephen Coniglio, Taranto and Jacob Hopper.
Harrison Himmelberg was another that stepped up in the forward line. Without Jeremy Cameron at the club in 2021, Himmelberg provided a strong target all day and slotted three goals as he assumes the mantle of their number one key forward.
Highmore impresses on debut
The Saints were without a host of their best 22 but had others step up in their absence.
One of those was Canberra’s Tom Highmore who was impressive on debut in the backline. The former Canberra Demon was a member of the Giants academy before being overlooked in several drafts. The Saints picked up the 23-year-old in last year’s draft and he looked assured in his first game, picking up 19 disposals.
The Giants head to Perth to take on the Fremantle Dockers on Sunday 28 March in round two before coming to Canberra in round three. They take on the Melbourne Demons at Manuka Oval on Sunday 4 April at 7.10pm.
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