Frustrated St Kilda coach Alan Richardson has lashed his players' meek response to the challenge thrown down by the Western Bulldogs in one of the most disappointing losses of their AFL season.
The Saints have suffered heavier defeats in an underwhelming campaign, but Saturday night's 35-point loss to an injury-ravaged Bulldogs outfit was arguably one of their most galling.
After some encouraging results after the bye, St Kilda looked switched on as they kicked the first five goals at Etihad Stadium to lead by 28 points early in the second term.
But Marcus Bontempelli booted four third-quarter goals as the Dogs - who had one win in their previous 10 games - turned the tables and swept to a 15.13 (103) to 9.14 (68) win in front of 20,748 fans.
"It was a very disappointing performance ... it just lacked any sort of response when the Doggies took it to another level," Richardson said.
"The period just after quarter-time we were really reckless with the footy, almost went too quick and lost momentum.
"But you go in the sheds at half-time still in front (by four points).
"Then halfway through the third quarter we just did not respond to the way they performed at centre bounces - they just got on top as a midfield group - and when I talk about disappointing, that's what I'm talking about.
"That's just unacceptable."
Seb Ross was outstanding with 40 possessions and three goals, but he had precious little support from his fellow midfielders who were largely powerless to stop the Dogs' onslaught.
"You're not going to win any game of footy when you've got one midfielder playing," Richardson lamented.
The Saints lost Josh Battle to concussion in the first half and Tom Hickey suffered a hamstring injury that hobbled him in the second half.
Richardson conceded those issues were a factor in the poor performance but wouldn't excuse his players' inability to at least try to hang on.
"We're just not good enough in that space yet ... just that competing, digging in and hanging in when things aren't going your way," he said.
"When we don't get it on our terms at the minute we get scored against heavily.
"It's an area we've got to make sure that we get right."