A little over a month and a half ago, the Richmond Football Club was languishing near the bottom of the AFL table, an abysmal 3-10 record reflecting a lost season after a promising return to Finals in 2013. Fast forward to their Round 20 game against arch-rivals Essendon with the Tigers a chance to take their record to 9-10 and retain a sniff of the possibility of Finals footy. Essendon itself has been in good shape to appear in the Finals after a horror 2013 when they finished eighth, only to have their points stripped due to the ASADA drug saga, vaulting Carlton from ninth position into the top eight. A win against Richmond would set the Bombers up nicely to play in the major round, despite missing their Captain Jobe Watson since Round 12.
Over 58,000 fans watched Bombers stand-in Captain Brendon Goddard win the coin toss as the combatants took their places in a classic Friday Night footy match up. The crowd roared as the first ball was bounced, and it was the red hot Tigers hitting the scoreboard first as Jack Riewoldt found Brett Deledio on the lead just inside the 50 meter arc. Deledio nailed the goal to take the Tigers to an early lead. The Bombers were running hard and leveled the scores through Paul Chapman, then took control with a mark and goal to Jake Carlisle. They looked sharper as the quarter continued, going inside 50 with relative ease but not finishing well. Jake Melksham missed the easiest of goals before a Dustin Martin error resulted in a goal to Corey Dell’Olio, stretching the early Essendon lead to 12 points at quarter time - a lead that could have been considerably larger on the balance of play.
Brandon Ellis was having another solid game for Richmond and goaled within a minute of the second quarter but Essendon hit straight back through Melksham. The Bombers still had the “cleaner” use of the football, but a sensational Jake Batchelor tackle resulted in a Ben Griffiths goal to keep Richmond in touch. Both teams went goal-for-goal until Deledio broke the sequence, leveling the scores. With the game in the balance, an absolute brain fade from Carlisle gifted back-to-back 50 meter penalties to the Tigers. Bachar Houli accepted the opportunity and banged home a goal to put Richmond seven points in front. Essendon hit back again and the scores were level in the shadows of half-time. A free kick to Trent Cotchin in the last attacking move of the quarter led to a Tiger goal with those six points the total of the Richmond lead at half time. In a cracking contest, it was anyone’s game at the main break.
It only took a couple of minutes for Essendon to tie the scores early in the third quarter as Carlisle booted his second goal of the game. He had another chance a few minutes later but Dell’Olio butchered the shot, with just a behind resulting where a goal seemed certain. Although Essendon seemed in control of the game just as they had in the first quarter, they weren’t hurting Richmond enough on the scoreboard. Trailing by seven points at the 14 minute mark, Nathan Gordon was poleaxed after taking a solid mark. On a tight angle, and probably seeing stars from the collision, Gordon coolly threaded an important Tiger goal against the flow of play. At the 23 minute mark, with Richmond leading by a point, a relatively quiet Dustin Martin created a bit of magic, wheeling around onto his right boot from the forward pocket and sending through a sensational goal that brought Tiger fans to their feet. Gordon snapped another goal but the siren beat him by a second so the umpire called a "no goal" and the Tigers went into the final break with a seven point advantage. Martin, Ellis, Gordon and Anthony Miles were the prime movers for Richmond and for Essendon, Goddard and Zaharakis looked the most likely to get the Bombers home.
Shane Edwards kicked the first goal of the final quarter to give the Tigers a 13 point buffer. Gordon followed up with his second and Richmond had momentum. A three goal lead at the four minute mark had the Tiger army up and firing loudly from the sidelines. Jason Winderlich got one back for the Bombers and the contest tightened up. Misses at both ends kept the game in the balance until a moment of brilliance from Riewoldt once again stretched the Tiger lead to 18 points at the 15 minute mark. Richmond fans were not allowed to relax as Dyson Heppell - brilliant all night for the Bombers - goaled. Within a minute Melksham repeated the dosage and the Tiger lead was down to just six points. Essendon missed a couple of chances and the game was going down to the wire. At the 25 minute mark Griffiths sent a booming kick towards the Tiger goal square where a clever bump and mark from Shane Edwards saw him play on and goal to put Richmond 12 points up with four minutes to play. Once again the Bombers had their chances but couldn’t convert as the Tigers were desperate in defense. A goal on the siren to Ivan Maric gave Richmond a satisfying 18 point victory, racking up their sixth straight win.
Richmond will have its work cut out to extend the winning streak, heading to Adelaide in Round 21 to face a rampaging Crows outfit coming off a 100 plus point win over the Brisbane Lions. Essendon will be looking to get its Finals' campaign back on track in an equally difficult game against the West Coast Eagles who have suddenly hit season best form. The 2014 season is alive and well, and is anything but done and dusted at this point, with six clubs in contention for the final two spots on the Ladder.
Scoreboard Richmond 1.2 7.4 9.8 14.11 (95) Essendon 3.2 6.4 8.7 11.11 (77) Best Players Richmond: Miles, Ellis, Edwards, Rance, Maric, Cotchin, Martin Essendon: Heppell, Zaharakis, Chapman, Hooker
Article last changed on Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - 7:48 PM EDT