Brook “Boris” Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA
Fremantle flew in to Melbourne determined to continue the excellent form that had seen them win ten of their last 11 contests. Richmond was looking to beat a team above them on the Ladder for the first time this season. When the same two teams met on Fremantle’s turf earlier in the season, only one point separated them as the Dockers snatched victory in the dying seconds. The battle of fifth versus sixth certainly shaped up to be a defining game in the context of the remainder of the home and away season. A Dockers' win would have them knocking on the door of a Top Four finish and the prospect of an all important home Final. A Tigers' win would cement them well and truly in the Top Eight with only a tough run home standing between them and their first Finals appearance since 2001.
The first kick of the game went to Ricky Petterd who kicked long into the Richmond forward line. A head-high bump from Clancee Pearce gave Jack Riewoldt a free kick and he didn’t let the Tiger faithful down, converting the first goal of the game within 30 seconds of the first bounce. Richmond controlled the ball early and looked strong in attack, a solid Ivan Maric mark leading to the Tiger’s second goal through Brett Deledio. Fremantle was struggling to mount successful attacks as the Tiger back line was relentless with its pressure and tackling. When Lee Spurr kicked straight to Riewoldt who was standing the mark, the Tiger forward turned the gift into gold as he kicked from 60 meters out. The ball bounced sweetly for Richmond’s third goal and a 19 point lead. The Dockers finally registered their first goal at the 20 minute mark through Michael Walters, and backed it up just a few minutes later through Alex Silvagni. While Richmond had the better of the contest early, at quarter time the Tigers held a narrow seven point lead.
It was a battle of the clangers in the second term as a swirling wind combined with a Dockers outfit hell-bent on defense made for a pure arm wrestle. Trent Cotchin was in everything for Richmond and the Tigers' clearance work was causing the Dockers a world of trouble. Ryan Crowley was performing his obligatory shut down role on Brett Deledio but the rest of the Tiger midfield was getting their hands on the ball first. Whenever the Dockers went forward they were repelled by an inspired Alex Rance who was seemingly everywhere for the Tigers. The only goal of the short 24 minute quarter went to 100-gamer Matt White as the Tigers extended their lead to 13 points at half time.
In complete contrast to the second, the third quarter began with the Dockers coming out full of run and looking to attack. Tendai Mzungu took a pass from David Mundy before kicking Fremantle’s first goal just a minute into the quarter. The next five minutes were played almost exclusively in the Dockers' forward line with Richmond defending desperately and absorbing a barrage of attacks. Against the run of play, some slick work from White to keep the ball in play resulted in a magnificent Dustin Martin goal from 40 meters out. Over the next five minutes, the Tigers wrestled back control of the game, a magnificent running goal from Jake King the exclamation mark on the transformation. A couple of misses by the Tigers kept the Dockers in the match, and when Mzungu goaled again at the 15 minute mark the visitors once again looked dangerous. A few minutes later it was Mzungu again, kicking his third goal after a 50 meter penalty against Ty Vickery. Twenty minutes into the quarter and the offense continued, Shane Edwards sharking a pack beautifully as the Tigers replied once more. A dubious free to Vickery followed, and he made no mistake to give Richmond some breathing space. Richmond coach Damien Hardwick was livid when Chris Mayne goaled within the last minute to bring Fremantle back to within two goals. If Hardwick was unhappy, Dockers' coach Ross Lyon would have been furious when Stephen Hill caught Cotchin high with just a couple of seconds left. The siren sounded, the obligatory 12 men stood on the mark but Cotchin coolly went back and bombed a beautiful goal to give Richmond a 21 point lead at the final break.
With a 21 point lead, the Tiger faithful were dreaming of a possible Finals appearance but Fremantle had other ideas. Mayne crumbed his own attempted mark to kick the first goal of the last quarter for the Dockers. Matt de Boer missed a chance for another Docker goal, but Michael Barlow found de Boer a few minutes later just 40 meters out from goal. De Boer threaded the goal and the margin was down to eight points. If the Tigers wanted to be Finals' contenders, they needed to make a stand right here. Richmond players shifted up a gear and went forward multiple times in the next few minutes, but their finishing let them down. At the 13 minute mark, White handballed to Martin who in turn found Riewoldt running towards goal. Riewoldt snapped truly and the Tigers could breathe again. A ball up 30 meters from Richmond’s goal saw Daniel Jackson grab the ball and throw it on his boot towards goal. The black and gold flags signaled it was good and the Tigers looked home. A Riewoldt conversion from a set shot was the icing on the cake as Richmond ran out worthy 27 point winners.
While Fremantle was missing some big names in Sandilands, Pavlich and Ballantyne, Richmond’s win was full of maturity as they thought their way through the Fremantle defensive zones that have brought many teams down this season. The Tigers showed patience to keep possession of the ball and not blaze away as they had done just two weeks earlier against North Melbourne. Cotchin was excellent for the Tigers with 34 possessions, while Maric, Ellis and Vlastuin were solid in the middle. Rance was simply magnificent in the backline for Richmond, putting his body on the line on numerous occasions. Mzungu, Fyfe and Mundy worked hard for the Dockers while Crowley once again did a solid tagging job on Deledio.
The reward for Richmond is the toughest task in football, heading to Sydney to take on the reigning Premiers - the Sydney Swans next round - while Fremantle will take on the Adelaide Crows, fresh off an upset win over Geelong at AAMI Stadium.
Scoreboard Richmond: 3.3 4.6 9.9 12.12 (84) Fremantle: 2.2 2.5 6.6 8.9 (57) Best Players Richmond: Cotchin, Rance, Ellis, Vlastuin, Jackson, Edwards Fremantle: Mzungu, Crowley, Dawson, Clarke, Fyfe, Mundy
Article last changed on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 - 9:30 PM EDT