Rick Browner reporting for AFANA from Patersons Stadium, Perth
Fremantle pulled off a win by the barest of margins in a tight Round 5 game at Patersons Stadium, courtesy of a goal by slippery small forward Hayden Ballantyne with seconds to play. The Dockers had much of the play for the whole game but, as has become their "bête noire" in recent weeks, they could not land the killer blow to their opponents until the last minute.
In what has become the norm this year, the team that got off to the good start was mown down in the long run. Richmond kicked the first three goals of the game and looked to be off to the races against a lethargic Dockers' outfit. The Dockers scored a couple of goals to keep themselves close enough, but it was the Tigers who looked the better team with some slick football. Working on improving their recent dismal tackling record, they rattled Fremantle players with the inferred pressure that this intensity brings. This pressure was evident late in the quarter when Clancee Pearce turned the ball over and Ty Vickery kicked the Tigers away to a 20 point lead.
Fremantle turned on the jets in the second quarter with Chris Mayne kicking the first goal within two minutes. Michael Walters was lively in the forward line for the Dockers as they started to ratchet up their determination around the contests. His goal had Fremantle back in the hunt. When Stephen Hill scored the third Docker goal for the quarter it was a result of some slack checking in the forward half by the Tiger defenders. Hill’s goal wrested the lead back to the Dockers but they then lost Kepler Bradley to a knee injury and had to activate their substitute early. Luck went the Tigers’ way when Chris Knights was the recipient of a dubious 50 meter penalty to steady his side. His goal took the lead back for Richmond as the game began to close up into tightly formed packs and stoppages. It was a see-sawing affair with the teams trading goals to take the lead, only to lose it again with the next goal. Fremantle had fought back well and held a two point lead as the siren sounded.
Richmond came out to start the second half with what turned out to be short-lived enthusiasm. Luke McGuane scored the first goal of the term when the Fremantle defenders ran into each other and fell over, leaving him all alone to score. However in the general run of play the Tigers were mostly static and not working hard enough off the ball to create opportunities for their team mates. Fremantle threatened to take the game away as they kicked the next two goals. The Dockers were looking eager to get into the fray at every contested ball and seemed to have more hunger for the win. One Tiger who would not say die was Knights. He was relishing his chance to play again in the big league and his accurate left foot snap for a goal kept his team within striking distance. Richmond took heart from his efforts and lifted their ratings when they had the ball in their forward attacking zone. Although they trailed by nine points at the end of the quarter there was a spark of fire in the Tiger eyes as they took the huddle for three quarter time.
Despite their determination Richmond could not penetrate the Dockers’ press and get the ball into their forward half for much of the early part of the final quarter. It had been 18 years since the Tigers had come from behind for a win at Patersons Stadium. They took to the contest with a vengeance and kicked three goals in a row to hit the front with minutes to play. They would have been further in front if it weren’t for a bizarre incident on the goal line where the goal umpire actually stepped into the field of play and prevented the ball from crossing the line for a goal. As it bounced back into play, Vickery flung his foot at it and missed while the ball lay like a giant goose egg, tantalizingly close to the Richmond goal line. Before any Tiger could recover, Docker Stephen Hill picked it up and calmly stepped across the line for a rushed behind to Richmond. In a frantic last minute, Hayden Ballantyne swooped on a ruck knock and dribbled the ball through for Fremantle to have them back in front by a solitary point as the clock ticked down. It proved to be enough in the end despite the Tigers moving the ball into goal range with seconds to play. The siren rang as the ball was only yards away from their goal and the loss by one point stood.
Coach Damien Hardwick was fuming after the match and demanded to know from the AFL why there was no goal review via camera after his team was seemingly robbed of a goal when it hit the goal umpire. Early this week, the AFL defended the decision and supported the continuation of the video review system in spite of heated criticism from fans and media outlets. As for the Dockers, they had once again left the gate open for their opponents and it nearly cost them. Coach Ross Lyon needs to address their failure to land the knockout punch if Fremantle is going to be true contender for the flag.
Scoreboard Richmond: 5.2 7.3 9.5 12.9 (81) Fremantle: 2.0 7.5 10.8 12.8 (80) Best players Richmond: Cotchin, Ellis, Jackson, Vickery, Knights Fremantle: McPharlin, Johnson, Fyfe, Ballantyne, Walters
Article last changed on Monday, May 28, 2018 - 5:36 PM EDT