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Brook Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA from Australia

Undoubtedly the biggest game of the AFL’s Indigenous Round - one that celebrates Australia’s indigenous population and their contribution to the game of AFL - is the “Dreamtime at the G” clash between Essendon and Richmond. Almost 84,000 fans packed the MCG to watch this year’s encounter, with both Essendon and Richmond desperate for victory to keep in touch with the Top Eight. The Bombers, having already beaten the reigning Premier in Hawthorn, had shown sporadic form heading into Saturday night’s game, while the Tigers seemed to be finding their mojo with consecutive wins against Collingwood and Port Adelaide after a poor start to the season. There was more to celebrate for Essendon fans as stalwart fullback Dustin Fletcher was playing his 400th AFL game - an amazing achievement given the demands on the modern AFL player.

After a wonderful pre-game indigenous ceremony, Fletcher won the toss, the crowd roared and the game was underway. The Tigers started quickly with a goal to Jack Riewoldt just five minutes in. Some slick work from Ivan Maric and the Richmond forwards saw the ball end up with Captain Trent Cotchin who finished superbly, giving Richmond a two goal lead. Jake Carlisle opened the account for the Bombers but it was Cotchin again hitting back, converting his second goal within seconds of the quarter time siren as Richmond used run-and-carry through the middle to take command of the contest. At quarter time, the Tigers led by ten points.

In the second quarter Essendon tightened up its defense to stifle the Richmond runners and the scoring dried up. Amazingly it took until the twenty minute mark for the first goal of the quarter and what a goal it was! A contested ball right on the Richmond 50 meter line looked to be a stalemate, but just as the umpire was about to call for a ball-up to clear the congestion, Dustin Martin used brute force to extricate the ball from the masses. He wheeled around on to his right foot and booted an incredible long goal as Tiger fans rose to their feet in approval. They didn’t have to wait long to celebrate again as an Essendon error in the back line allowed Ben Griffiths to swoop on the ball and kick another Tiger goal. Just as the Bombers were in danger of losing touch with the lead, they beat the Tigers at their own game, quickly moving the ball from one end to the other, resulting in a great goal to Jackson Merrett. When Joe Daniher added another just prior to half time, the Bombers had fought their way right back into a fierce - yet at times - scrappy contest. At half-time Richmond held an 11 point lead with Brandon Ellis and Shane Edwards proving the most damaging players for Richmond through the midfield.

Both teams traded goals early in the third to keep the margin close, but the speedy Travis Colyer put the Bombers right back in it with an excellent running goal that had the Essendon players and supporters up and going. At the 18 minute mark the noise at the “G” became almost deafening as a strong mark and goal to Joe Daniher brought the Bombers back to within one point and piling on the pressure. As they have in the previous two rounds, the Tigers refused to be run over. A forward line scramble late in the quarter led to an ugly but effective long goal from Round 1 star Kamdyn McIntosh and at the final change it was Richmond leading by eight points.

Nervous Tiger fans would have been feeling a little better when the elusive Shaun Grigg goaled within a minute of the first bounce in the final quarter. Coach Damien Hardwick decided to activate the Richmond substitute and first-year player Corey Ellis took to the field replacing tall forward Liam McBean. Another goal at the eight minute mark through the unlikely avenue of Steve Morris extended the Tiger lead to 14-points but they wanted more. The next goal would have warmed the hearts of Richmond fans everywhere as the freshly subbed youngster in Ellis delivered a superb running finish from 50 meters out to extend the lead to a handy 20 points. Dustin Fletcher was unfortunately subbed out in his 400th with a groin complaint.

Essendon had a chance to keep the margin manageable but a poor miss from Jake Carlisle - his second for the day - let his team down when they needed him the most. Still the Bombers pressed and just prior to the 20 minute mark Paul Chapman converted for Essendon, keeping the contest alive as they trailed by just 11 points. The Tigers would not be denied and, playing “tempo” football, they retained possession as the clock ran down, running out eventual winners by 13 points.Coach James Hird would have lamented the inaccurate kicking by his players from set shots, while his Richmond counterpart Damien Hardwick would have been delighted with his team’s third win in a row, getting their season back on track after a sporadic 2-4 start.

There is no time to rest for the Tigers as they face the toughest trip in football in Round 10, facing the undefeated Fremantle Dockers in Perth. Essendon players also have a tough week ahead, coming up against Geelong, another team fighting to stay in touch for finals contention.

Richmond 3.2 5.6 7.10 10.12 (72)
Essendon 1.4 3.7 6.8   8.11 (59)

Best Players:
Richmond: B.Ellis, Martin, Cotchin, Edwards, Deledio, Grigg
Essendon: Goddard, Heppell, Hibberd, Carlisle, Colyer, Z.Merrett

Article last changed on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 - 3:58 PM EDT

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