To kick the game winning goal after the final siren is every Australian footballer’s dream. It’s the equivalent of the walk-off home run in baseball, the three-point winning buzzer-beater in basketball and the overtime goal in the NHL. On Saturday night, Richmond’s Sam Lloyd lived that very dream. In a see-sawing battle at the MCG in front of a small but rabid crowd of 36,014, Lloyd saved Richmond’s flailing season, possibly the job of its coach Damien Hardwick, and certainly gave its loyal fan base a healthy dose of joy in a season that has delivered mostly just heartache. A live audience on Fox Sports 1 watched across the US.
The Sydney Swans traveled to Melbourne with six wins from seven games under their belt, rightfully earning their tag as favorites against a beleaguered Richmond team that had lost five games in a row and a shadow of the outfit that played finals football in 2015. The game started ominously for the Tigers with Sydney spearhead Lance Franklin looking dangerous as he scored the game’s first goal. When Isaac Heeney added a second for the Swans at the five minute mark and Franklin kicked his second just four minutes later, another long night for Tiger fans was in the offing. Facing a 19-1 deficit, Richmond fought back. Brett Deledio, Dustin Martin and Anthony Miles started to win the midfield battle and the Tigers trailed by just 10 points at quarter time.
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick’s game plan was clearly to slow the game down and control the football; thus denying Sydney’s damaging midfield use of the ball. In the second term, the plan frustrated the Swans who struggled to get their running game up and going. While Dan Hannebery was getting plenty of possessions, his fellow stars in Luke Parker, Keiren Jack, Tom Mitchell and Isaac Heeney were not having their usual impact. Sydney saw a 16 point lead nearly evaporate in the space of six minutes as Richmond forward Ben Griffiths went on a rampage kicking two goals and barely missing another as the Tigers picked up the game pace in the shadows of half time. Brandon Ellis added another Tiger goal to miraculously give Richmond a five point halftime lead.
The third quarter was one of wasted opportunities for Richmond as they missed countless chances in front of goal before the classy Franklin scored for the Swans. Sam Lloyd replied for the Tigers but more missed chances, this time by Martin and Ty Vickery, opened the gate for Sydney to finish the quarter in style with four goals in a row to George Hewett, Kurt Tippett, Franklin and Jake Lloyd. With a quarter to play, the Swans again had the momentum and a handy 18 point lead.
The final quarter was an intense, see-saw battle of wills. Richmond switched from their ball controlling tactics to take the game on, taking the Swans by surprise as the Tigers piled in five goals in an eight minute burst. Diminutive Daniel Rioli providing the spark up forward the Tigers were craving. Rioli and Griffiths added two goals each while Sam Lloyd kicked another to give Richmond a 12 point lead eight minutes into the term. As they had all night, the Swans bounced back, kicking the next four goals in a row through Jack, Hannebery, Tom Papley and Tippett. All of the momentum was back with the Swans as they led by 11 points at the 23 minute mark. The Tigers looked like they had no more shots to fire. The game had one more twist in the tail. Griffiths, in his best game for Richmond, ran hard to shake off Ted Richards as he goaled to bring the margin back to just five points with a few minutes remaining.
As time ticked down there were heroic tackles made, some stellar defense by Alex Rance and Dylan Grimes to deny further Sydney scoring, followed by what can only be described as an incredible finish. With 22 seconds left and the ball deep in Sydney’s attacking area, Alex Rance grabbed the ball and kicked it blindly over his head. Nick Vlastuin for Richmond took possession and kicked it towards the center. The ball looked destined for Sydney’s Callum Mills, but took a sideways bounce into the arms of Richmond’s Jack Riewoldt. Riewoldt spotted Ben Griffiths and hit him with a perfect lobbed pass. Griffiths looked further forward and found Sam Lloyd who marked just inside the 50 meter arc as time expired. The siren sounded. It was all up to Lloyd. It was a tough kick at the best of times. Now, it was so much harder. The chance to live a boyhood dream in front of 36,015 fans, and in turn take the heat down on his struggling club. Under immense pressure, with Tiger fans biting their nails, Lloyd walked in and launched the ball towards the goal….and through it went with the screams of the Tiger faithful ringing in the player’s ears. Chaos ensued as the Richmond players piled onto Lloyd just as you would see after a World Series game seven. It was an amazing end to an intense game of AFL football.
Next up the Tigers head to Western Australia to take on winless Fremantle, while the Swans face fellow contenders Hawthorn on Friday night at the MCG.
Scoreboard: Richmond 3.5 6.10 7.15 14.17 (101) Sydney 5.3 6.5 11.9 15.10 (100) Best Players: Richmond: Griffiths, Deledio, Martin, Miles, Rance, Riewoldt Sydney Swans: Franklin, Hannebery, Jack, Tippett, Heeney
Article last changed on Sunday, May 15, 2016 - 12:55 PM EDT