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Brook “Boris” Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA from Australia

Riewoldt Marks
The Fremantle Dockers entered Friday night’s home clash with visiting Richmond, searching for what would be a club record tenth win in as many games to start the season. Despite a close call with Adelaide in round nine, no team had been able to penetrate the vaunted Fremantle defense well enough to end the winning streak in 2015. Richmond went into the game on a roll of its own, having chalked up three wins in a row against quality opposition after an indifferent 2-4 start to the season. While the Tigers had not beaten Fremantle in Western Australia since 2009, they could take some solace in the fact their away record has been solid over the past few seasons.

Almost all of the “football experts” had tipped a comfortable win to Fremantle; the 38,000 fans in attendance would have been expecting the same. The first 30 minutes of the game would turn all of the pundit’s predictions upside down. Two-minutes into the first quarter, Taylor Hunt found Ty Vickery up forward for Richmond who kicked the game’s first goal. Five minutes later it was tall forward Ben Griffiths kicking the Tiger’s second. Brett Deledio added another within a minute to give Richmond an 18-point lead. Two minutes later Dustin Martin burst through the 50 meter arc and hit the football with the outside of his boot for another Richmond goal. While both teams were getting their hands on the football, the Richmond defense was standing firm, turning defense into attack where the forwards were dominating their Fremantle opponents.

Matt Taberner gave the Dockers some respite with their first goal of the game but the Tigers came right back, adding two more of their own through Vickery and Griffiths. Trailing by 30 points, things went from bad to worse for the Dockers as key backman Michael Johnson, in his 200th game, limped off with a serious hamstring injury. Shaun Grigg hit the scoreboard again for Richmond before a deadly-accurate pass from youngster Corey Ellis found Deledio close to goal. The resultant goal stretched the Tiger lead to an incredible 42 points. The two Haydens, Ballantyne and Crozier, goaled late for Fremantle to make the scoreboard respectable. At quarter time, the visiting Tigers held sway by 30 points, having kicked 8.1 in a scintillating display of Aussie rules football.

The second quarter saw the Tigers continue to pile on the pressure, with Jack Riewoldt kicking a perfect set shot to extend the Tiger lead. Monster ruckman Aaron Sandilands replied for the Dockers but they failed to get any sort of continuity in their attack, as Richmond defenders Dylan Grimes, Troy Chaplain and Alex Rance were completely dominating their Fremantle opponents. When Steve Morris sent a wobbly punt through for the tenth Richmond goal, things were looking grim for the undefeated Dockers. Another Docker mistake led to a Corey Ellis intercept and goal, then Riewoldt added another, stretching the Richmond lead to a whopping 48 points. With the game looking all but over approaching half time, some absolute brilliance from Nathan Fyfe was in order as he kept the ball alive near the boundary before kicking an amazing goal from an almost impossible angle. At half-time, the Tigers led by 43 points.

Despite comfortably winning clearances around the ground, Fremantle were wilting under the pressure from the Tiger midfield, led by a rampaging Dustin Martin and Trent Cotchin. While Fyfe was still proving to be a thorn in the Tiger side, he wasn’t getting enough support from his fellow midfielders. In the third quarter, the in-form Brandon Ellis kicked another Tiger goal in the first three minutes of the second half. Fremantle slowly gained some ascendancy around the midfield but they failed to capitalizde, the forwards struggling to take marks or convert their set shots. At the 15 minute mark it was Crozier who stopped the rot for the home team, kicking his second goal of the game. Michael Walters continued the Docker resurgence with another goal before Michael Barlow repeated the dosage for the third Fremantle goal on the trot. With the lead down to a manageable 29 points as the quarter neared the end, the Fremantle crowd started to ramp up the noise. Tiger fans on the other hand were biting their nails.

Both teams traded points before Ben Griffiths had the chance to seal the deal for Richmond just 15 meters out from goal. Unfortunately for Tiger fans, the nervous wait would continue as he missed the shot on goal. Walters then goaled for the Dockers at the ten minute mark to tighten the margin to 21 points and the game was up for grabs. Richmond coach Damien Hardwick, desperate to inject some run into his team, activated young substitute Connor Menadue from the bench. Fremantle continued to attack but the Richmond defense stood firm. At the 13 minute mark of the fourth quater, Dustin Martin kicked long to the goalsquare. The ball cleared the pack and the slippery Shane Edwards managed to get enough of his foot on it as he fell to the ground, dribbling the ball through for a much-needed steadying goal against the flow of play. Walters kicked his third not long after to once again reduce the margin to 21, but with the clock running down to seven minutes left, the margin for error was getting thin for the Dockers.

The Tigers held on, slowing the tempo of the play and retaining possession at all costs. When Deledio passed to Vickery with just minutes left, a goal would surely seal victory. Vickery made no mistake and the unbeaten run of Fremantle was over, the Tigers running out 27-point winners. Seemingly in crisis just a month ago, Richmond have now defeated Collingwood and Essendon in Melbourne, while taking the scalps of Port Adelaide and Fremantle on the road to resurrect their season at 6-4. Curiously, Richmond had beaten Fremantle at its own game: a high possession style of football that was executed well, with frantic tackling and a stifling defense. Accurate kicking for goal was the icing on the cake for a team that had struggled in that area for much of the season.

While Fyfe, Lachie Neale and Michael Walters played well for the Dockers, the midfield did not take advantage of Aaron Sandilands complete domination in the rucking duel with Ivan Maric. The Tigers had solid contributions from their entire backline, with a good spread of goals from their forwards. Richmond now has a week off with the first of the three bye rounds starting in Round 11. When they return it will be against the other Western Australian team, the West Coast Eagles, this time in Melbourne at the MCG. Ross Lyon’s Dockers will look to consolidate top position on the AFL ladder when they face the struggling Gold Coast Suns next week in Queensland.

Fremantle 3.1  5.2  8.5  10.10 (70)
Richmond  8.1 12.3 13.4  15.7  (97)

Best Players:
Fremantle: Fyfe, Neale, Barlow, Sandilands, Walters, Mundy
Richmond: Martin, B. Ellis, Edwards, Cotchin, Rance, Houli, Grigg

Article last changed on Monday, May 28, 2018 - 5:36 PM EDT

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