Having led by 33 points during the second half, the West Coast succumbed to a devastating fourth-quarter comeback from a gutsy St Kilda side.
Kicking an onslaught of eight goals in the final two quarters of the match, the West Coast defence buckled under increased pressure from a rampant St Kilda midfield to concede the match 15.12 (102) to 13.4 (82).
The loss was made worse for the Eagles after former captain Shannon Hurn limped off the field in the opening term with what appeared to be a calf strain.
It seems the same problems persist for the West Coast, who once again couldn’t seem to keep their foot on the gas pedal for the entire four quarters.
Cruising on a comfortable lead heading into the second half, the Eagles eased off the pressure on the Saints towards the later stages of the match, allowing the St Kilda to pepper their goal square and rack up 54 inside the 50s during the match.
There was no doubt Brett Ratten’s down and out Saints side would be dangerous coming into this match. And it became clear they were out to make amends following their humiliating loss to Essendon last week.
Jack Steele was again their talisman in the middle of the park, and the Eagles could do little to quell his advances in the final stanzas of play, bombing seven kicks into the Eagles danger zone during the match.
But despite the sour result, there were some good points to reflect on in the first half.
Two early goals from Jack Darling got the Eagles off to a fast start.
The Eagles’ ball movement was precise and measured and allowed them to convert on each entry they had during the opening 10 minutes. They were clinical in defence too, with four of their opening six goals coming from defensive turnovers.
Breaking on the counter, Oscar Allen sprayed a long ball inside 50 to Jack Darling, who benefitted from some relaxed Saints defending to poke home his first of the night. He followed that up shortly after, capitalising on a free-kick conceded by Saints defender Josh Battle.
With Shannon Hurn off the field, Jarrod Brander stood up to shore things up at the back and was impressive, taking five intercept marks from midfield while teeing up Liam Ryan with a massive bomb inside the 50, which Ryan expertly converted.
With the Eagles coming out of the blocks early, it was a frustratingly familiar opening for the Saints, who have now gone behind at the start in each of their opening four matches of this year.
But they fought back, keeping themselves in contention with a flurry of well-worked goals from Max King, who terrorised the Eagles defence all night, taking a hat-trick of majors in the opening quarter.
When the Eagles got into full flow, their class with the ball in hand was impressive, pinpointing their big forwards with some delightful kicks upfield. Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling both kicked two goals apiece during the match and thrived under some excellent service from the Eagles midfield.
There was also a fairytale debut for medical substitute Isiah Winder. Coming onto the field in place of Shannon Hurn, the 19-year-old made an impact straight away, scoring his first AFL goal with his first kick in senior footy.
And it was rotation players Jack Petruccelle, Jarrod Brander, and Josh Rotham who impressed in the opening half.
Petruccelle, in particular, showed some incredible game awareness to shoot a career-high of four goals during the match. Lapping up tap downs coming from contests inside the 50 while showing off his blistering pace to get free and kick a winding banana kick through the sticks, Petruccelle was perhaps the best Eagle afield.
As the match went on, the Eagles started to lose control and were guilty of complacency throughout the second half.
They allowed St Kilda to pepper their 50 in the third term, with the Saints hitting six inside 50s in the opening five minutes of the match. And it wasn’t long before they took their reward via a looping goal from Jack Billings, who spurred the men from Moorabbin into gear.
And that’s where things went downhill for the Eagles.
Buckling under the increased Saints pressure and scrambling to clear the ball away, the Eagles made multiple mistakes gifting Dan Butler an easy kick just off the goal square that triggered the Saints’ eight-goal onslaught.
Daniel McKenzie then capitalised from a free-kick thanks to some poor judgement from the Eagles backline, choosing to pass the ball around goal square instead of clearing their lines.
Making 18 tackles inside the West Coast 50, the St Kilda continued to ramp up the pressure on the Eagles, who couldn’t seem to get the ball away.
Seizing their chances, Daniel Mckenzie, Tim Membrey, Max King, and Jack Billings followed up with majors before the Eagles could move the ball outside of their own half. And even after the Eagles managed to rebound upfield, the Saints came back once again to finish the Eagles off, with goals from Jack Steele and Jack Higgins.
The Eagles will now have another long and sombre flight back to Perth before they rebuild to take on old enemy Collingwood on Friday night.
St Kilda: King 5, Butler 3, Membrey 2, Billings 2, McKenzie, Steele, Higgins
West Coast: Petruccelle 4, Darling 2, Allen 2, Kennedy 2, Ryan, Cripps, Winder
Petruccelle, Darling, Sheed, Naitanui