IF THIS was Alan Richardson's gauge on how St Kilda is tracking, then Saturday's match should offer some positives with a nasty aftertaste.
Richardson's Saints demonstrated toughness in the contest and genuine attacking flair – aided by the inclusion of exuberant first-gamer Robbie Young – that hints at a brighter future.
However, that will have to wait.
St Kilda's competitive first three quarters counted for little by game's end, with Collingwood's final-term goal deluge sending it to a commanding 17.10 (112) to 10.11 (71) triumph at a sun-drenched MCG.
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The Saints' sole major in the final half an hour came with barely 90 seconds left and with the contest over.
Only five points separated the teams at three-quarter time after sharing 10 goals in a scintillating third term that had set the stage for a grandstand finish.
The Magpies were tested for a second straight week, although not for as long as against Carlton, and have now banked six wins on the trot.
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The moment that summed up the change in fortunes came just before the clock ticked over to seven minutes in the fourth quarter.
James Aish, one of two late Collingwood inclusions, sent a scrappy kick forward and Steele Sidebottom gathered at pace, turned and left befuddled Saints Jack Billings and Shane Savage in his wake.
Sidebottom trotted inside 50 and split the middle for the second of the Magpies' six final-term goals.
It was party time once second-year forward Jaidyn Stephenson launched a torpedo several rows back from 55m for the sixth of them to put Collingwood 46 points clear.
Sidebottom was outstanding with 29 disposals, two goals and 11 score involvements, including a savvy kick across goal to Brody Mihocek for his fourth major in the dying stages.
The Pies crushed St Kilda in the contest at the finish – owing plenty to Brodie Grundy getting on top of Rowan Marshall – and their brutal efficiency contrasted with what went on at the other end.
Ben Reid (16 disposals, seven marks and three goals) provided a target in attack all afternoon and made a strong case to remain in the side even once Mason Cox returns.
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Jack Crisp (27 possessions) was also terrific down back, Stephenson (three goals) was dangerous from the get-go and Adam Treloar (38) won a stack of the Sherrin, even if he was a bit haphazard on occasion.
Marshall arguably shaded Grundy to the main break, but Collingwood's All Australian big man rattled home to end the day with 24 touches (18 contested) and 49 hit-outs.
St Kilda will kick itself for its waywardness to half-time.
The Saints trailed by five points at that stage despite having five more scoring shots and failed to fully capitalise on an extraordinary second quarter patch where it had 15 inside 50s in a row.
It kicked off after Travis Varcoe slotted the Magpies' fifth goal to put them 15 points clear five minutes into the second term.
Jack Billings was the catalyst, winning 13 of his 29 disposals in the quarter – and most of them wreaking havoc in the forward half – with Luke Dunstan (30, nine clearances) also dominant.
They were St Kilda's best players, along with Tim Membrey (four goals), whose accuracy in front of the big sticks contrasted with most of his teammates, and the hard-running Shane Savage (25).
Savage slotted a booming goal on the run from 50m late in the third quarter.
Jade Gresham (23, nine inside 50s) was at the heart of much of the Saints' creativity in the first three quarters, along with exciting first-year pair Matt Parker and Young.
Young's left boot should become a real weapon in St Kilda's line-up, and his vigorous celebrations after both of his goals were a sight to behold.
Both sides kicked three goals in the second term, but more notable was the Saints' six behinds, some of them long-range attempts from shallow entries and others certainly in the range of gettable.
They entered the contest ranked 13th in the AFL for shot-at-goal accuracy and didn't help that cause in the first half, which included a 1.3 opening term.
Collingwood: Tom Langdon had his right knee strapped at quarter-time and he played in the second quarter, but didn't appear after half-time. Brody Mihocek went from the ground briefly to have his jaw examined after an accidental head clash with Ben Paton. The Pies also lost stars Jordan De Goey (shin) and Darcy Moore (ankle) before the match.
St Kilda: Ed Phillips passed a concussion test and eventually returned to the field after copping a high hit from Magpie Travis Varcoe late in the first quarter.
Collingwood will enjoy the confidence of six straight wins when it faces the Swans in Sydney on a six-day turnaround on Friday night. St Kilda will try to avoid five consecutive defeats when it takes on Carlton the following day at Marvel Stadium.
COLLINGWOOD 3.1 6.2 11.4 17.10 (112)
ST KILDA 1.3 4.9 9.11 10.11 (71)
Collingwood: Mihocek 4, Reid 3,Stephenson 3, Sidebottom 2, Thomas 2, Varcoe 2, Hoskin-Elliott
St Kilda: Membrey 4, Young 2, Bruce, Marshall, Savage, Battle
Collingwood: Sidebottom, Grundy, Reid, Crisp, Beams, Stephenson, Treloar
St Kilda: Dunstan, Billings, Membrey, Savage, Gresham, Steele
Collingwood: De Goey (shin soreness) replaced in selected side by Wills, Moore (ankle) replaced in selected side by Aish, Langdon (knee)
St Kilda: Nil
Reports: Travis Varcoe reported for rough conduct on Ed Phillips
Umpires: Meredith, Findlay, Gianfagna
Official crowd: 60,702 at the MCG