Misery for Giants as Saints march into finals

Former Sydney coach Rodney Eade used to say sides who claim to have nothing to lose in the finals are kidding themselves but in the Saints’ case just being there is a success in itself after finishes of 14th and 16th in the past two years.

Zak Jones and Jade Gresham aside, the Saints have a relatively healthy list for this time of the season.

The gamble to play Dan Hannebery did not return immediate dividends as the veteran midfielder was quiet in his first game in 11 weeks but in racing parlance he will be better for the gallop. Given his finals experience, it was a risk worth taking.

Importantly, Hannebery, who has managed just 26 of a possible 62 games in the past three seasons, was able get through the game unhurt, his 13 touches a bonus. The week’s break gives the him another chance to clock extra miles in his legs.

Coach Brett Ratten, who has reached the finals in his first season at the helm at Moorabbin, had urged his charges to embrace the pressure that comes in such a high-stakes game and they did not play like a side daunted at being in uncharted waters.

In slippery conditions, the Saints were more efficient in their ball movement, and their team defence held strong despite 46 fewer possessions.

Whereas the Giants were forced to chip the ball from one wing to the other to find a way forward, the Saints had more success picking the holes left open.

Against a defence missing Phil Davis and Aidan Corr, Rowan Marshall and Max King often found themselves in dangerous positions. Josh Battle’s influence on the game was better reflected in not how many times he won the ball but how rarely it was in the hands of his opponent Nick Haynes.

The Giants needed to win and have other results fall their way to make a fifth straight finals series but could not honour their side of the bargain.

They were held goalless after half-time in a miserable finish to a campaign which started with such high hopes in March but never gained any momentum after the onset of the pandemic.

Wins over Geelong, Richmond and Collingwood showed their best was worthy to be discussed as a premiership contender but losses to Adelaide (18th), North Melbourne (17th) and Sydney (15th) exposed a soft underbelly.

Controversially dumped last week, Stephen Coniglio played like a man with a point to prove but only rarely was he able to cut through like he has in previous seasons. The same could be said for Lachie Whitfield and Josh Kelly, both among the leading possession-getters.

Their midfield was again well beaten, destroyed at the clearances – an area which has been their strength.

Despite controlling large periods of the first half, the Giants were brought undone by poor kicking for goal.

Jeremy Cameron again had little impact, though was part of a forward line on starvation rations after half-time.

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