It was supposed to be a celebration of the life of Tommy Hafey, Richmond’s iconic four time Premiership coach who sadly passed away during the week. Instead, for Richmond, it was a disaster of far-reaching proportions. Coming into the contest with a precarious 2-5 record, the Tigers simply had to win. Not just to keep their Finals hopes alive, not just to honor the memory of Hafey, but to give their fans some hope that their 15 win season in 2013 wasn’t a fluke. The answer to the latter is one that Tiger supporters will not want to accept and will certainly struggle to understand. Melbourne mounted a spirited effort to grind out a hard-fought win – the Demons' second in a row and third for the season. The Demon players were simply better when it counted, their masterful new coach Paul Roos earning every cent of his high-priced contract.
As a spectacle, the game was a frustrating stop-start affair with congestion and stoppages the order of the day. Dustin Martin was solid for Richmond, while Dom Tyson had a field day for the Demons. Incredibly, despite numerous excellent tackles by both teams, the first free kick wasn’t paid until Melbourne’s Max Gawn was pinged for holding the ball 17 minutes into the game - hard to believe in a modern game of football. Richmond’s endeavor was evident but their kicking skills let them down, with a woeful 41% kicking efficiency in the first quarter. Despite leading the inside fifty entries 13 to 8, the Tigers led by just six points at quarter time.
The Demons dominated the clearances early in the second quarter with Nathan Jones and Tyson the prime movers. A Matt Jones goal edged the Demons closer, but mistakes from both teams kept the scoring down. The signs weren’t good for Richmond when a wobbling punt from Jack Watts somehow fell into the arms of Aidan Riley standing between three Tiger defenders. Riley’s goal put Melbourne in front before an error at the other end of the ground gifted Shane Edwards a goal to put Richmond back in the lead. A couple of bad misses from Shaun Grigg left the Tigers with a slim three point half time lead.
Two minutes into the third quarter, the Demons had a massive slice of luck as a Tyson shot on goal - heading for the point posts - bounced at right angles and went through for a goal. Chris Dawes added another long goal from outside 50 meters and Melbourne was looking the better team. Richmond players were getting the ball inside 50 but falling into the trap of kicking to the Demon spare man in defense, the spectacular Jeremy Howe. Richmond coach Damien Hardwick had activated the Tigers' substitute in debutant Ben Lennon at the start of the quarter, and the young man didn’t let his coach down, kicking a goal with his first kick in AFL footy. Big man Shaun Hampson was the player benched for Lennon, in a move that would backfire on the Tiger coach when the unlucky David Astbury went down with yet another serious knee injury. Richmond was down two talls with the demise of Astbury and their season continued to head south in a hurry. The lead changed hands multiple times as each team tried to gain the advantage. A terrible defensive error from Grigg allowed Jack Viney - another impressive Demon youngster - to goal and put the Demons 12 points up, as limping Richmond skipper Trent Cotchin (injured in the first quarter and playing on with a sore ankle) tried desperately to keep the Tiger ship afloat. Despite being down on numbers, Richmond peppered the goals in the last five minutes of the quarter but missed every time. At the final break the Demons led by eight points, despite Richmond having an extra ten entries inside their 50 meter zone.
Richmond desperately needed the first goal of the final quarter and they got it with Lennon kicking his second in his first game. Melbourne continued to win the clearances and an excellent finish from Cam Pederson took them back out to an eight point lead. The Tigers couldn’t take a trick in front of goals while the Demons were finishing their forward entries with great class. After a series of misses, Cotchin finally goaled for Richmond to keep their faint hopes alive. A Christian Salem kick was spoiled by Bachar Houli but deflected straight to Jack Watts who nailed down the Demons' win. Melbourne ran out 17 point winners, but the story was in the scoreline. In the second half, Melbourne booted 10.2 to Richmond’s 5.12.
For Melbourne, it was another positive step forward for a developing team which has recruited well with the excellent additions of Dom Tyson and Christian Salem. Coach Paul Roos has the Demons on a two game winning streak and improving in confidence as they develop their stifling defensive game plan. Damien Hardwick and his Richmond players are at their lowest ebb for several years. A season of promise has unraveled over the course of the past few rounds and there are more questions than answers at Punt Road. With a game against the struggling Greater Western Sydney Giants next week, all eyes will be on the Tigers to see if they can show their fans any signs of life. Melbourne has the Round 10 bye.
Scoreboard Richmond: 2.3 4.8 6.16 9.20 (74) Melbourne: 1.3 4.5 9.6 14.7 (91) Best Players Richmond: Martin, Deledio, Jackson, Cotchin Melbourne: Tyson, N. Jones, Pedersen, Viney, Dawes, Howe, Watts
Article last changed on Monday, May 19, 2014 - 8:31 PM EDT