Brook "Boris" Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA
The Sunday special this week belonged to Richmond and St Kilda, two clubs with differing fortunes and vastly different short term futures. The Saints, only a couple of years removed from a Grand Final appearance, seem to have bypassed their potential Premiership window as their older players move away from their prime. The Tigers on the other hand, have put a dark recent past behind them, forging a bright future on the back of 60,000 plus members and a recent three game winning streak that should help them build towards their first Finals appearance since 2001. The sideshow to every St Kilda versus Richmond clash is the match up of gun forward cousins in Nick (St Kilda) and Jack (Richmond) Riewoldt, with Jack having the better of the spoils over the last few contests including a seven goal haul the last time these two teams met. Tiger young gun Nick Vlastuin was a late withdrawal prior to game time, while St Kilda were without feisty goal sneak Stephen Milne after off field issues that could potentially end a tumultuous but effective career.
As a crowd of just over 50,000 took their seats, the game began under grey skies and the threat of rain. The underdog Saints showed they had come to play, attacking the ball from the get go and within 30 seconds a knock on from Justin Koschitzke found Trent Dennis-Lane speeding towards goal. Dennis-Lane dropped the footy on to the outside of his right boot and sent it through the goals for the first score of the game. St Kilda’s early pressure troubled the sluggish Tigers, and it was Dennis-Lane again marking for the Saints with a chance to extend their lead. He made no mistake and just six minutes into the quarter St. Kilda held sway with a 10 point lead. While the Saints were working hard, their skills were letting them down, turning the ball over to keep the Tigers in the game. Jack Riewoldt read the flight of a forward kick beautifully to get goal side of a large pack, picking the ball off the back and soccering through the Tigers' first despite strong attention from the St Kilda defense. Four minutes later it was Riewoldt again, putting Richmond in front for the first time in the game. Jack Steven showed great pace to run the Tiger defense ragged before launching a goal from close range before Daniel Jackson added another Tiger with some bullocking run close to goal. An awful St Kilda turnover at the 50 meter arc led to a sensational Brandon Ellis snap and goal to extend the Tiger lead before the first break. The Saints were trying hard but letting themselves down by foot, while classy individual efforts from the Richmond engine room, plus a solid cameo across half forward for Aaron Edwards, had the home team looking the goods.
Leigh Montana had the Saints right back in it with a long bomb from outside the 50 meter arc to kick of the second quarter. Jake King marked, summed up his options then decided to do it himself with a solid goal from around 40 meters out and the Tigers were full of run. Richmond Captain Trent Cotchin was racking up stats in close while his partner in crime Nathan Foley was starting to have an impact on the game. A slight drop off in defensive intensity by the Saints was all the Tigers needed to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Most of the quarter was spent with the ball in the Richmond forward line as they launched attack after attack. Riewoldt kicked his third goal and the omnipresent Aaron Edwards kicked his first to stretch the Richmond lead. When Ty Vickery - also prominent in the absence of usual first choice ruckman Ivan Maric - kicked his first the momentum was with a rampaging Tiger outfit. As half time approached, Shaun Grigg got on the end of a superb Aaron Edwards pass deep in the forward line. Grigg converted the goal before another Tiger center clearance saw them drive forward once again. Foley extracted the ball from a congested pack and banged a bouncing ball through traffic to kick the Tigers to a handy 35 point half time lead. It was difficult to see the Saints getting back from here, the pure weight of inside 50’s from the Tigers showing their ball moving efficiency compared to the struggling Saints who dropped off dramatically after a solid first quarter.
Clinton Jones gave the Saints just what they needed with the first goal of the third quarter. However any thoughts of a comeback were shot down when Reece Conca earned a soft free kick within scoring range for the Tigers. Heavy rain was setting in as Conca converted to restore the wide margin, before Daniel Jackson snapped a beauty to blow the margin out beyond 45 points. After Grigg once again found himself to receive and goal, the Saints gave their fans something to get excited about with back-to-back goals from Nick Dal Santo and a nice check-side goal from young Brodie Murdoch. The St. Kilda midfield of Armitage, Steven, Montana and Dal Santo were battling manfully however they could not match the explosive run of their opposition in Cotchin, Conca, Martin, Jackson and Foley. Debutant Matthew Arnot was also impressive, his game high seven tackles showing the Tiger coaching staff he was keen to stick around for the weeks ahead. A third goal to Jackson steadied the Tiger ship before Brett Deledio somehow did what three St Kilda defenders could not, getting his boot to a loose ball in the square to ensure it would be party time at Tigerland as the Black and Gold army celebrated what would become their fourth win in a row. At three quarter time it was Richmond sitting comfortably with a 56 point lead.
Rain continued to fall as the fourth quarter became a slog. Both teams going in hard but the task of getting quality disposal was getting tougher as the ball became more like a cake of soap than a leather footy. A couple of misses by Jack Riewoldt were followed by a goal from Cousin Nick, a worthy reward for his always stellar effort around the ground. The Tigers, determined to bank some handy percentage and win the last quarter in the process, hit back with goals from Deledio and Foley before the scoring dried up, unlike the playing surface. As the final siren sounded and the strains of “Tigerland” rang out over the MCG Public Announcement system, Richmond players would have been quietly content that they had once again taken care of business to put themselves in with a realistic chance of playing Finals for the first time in 12 years. St Kilda will be realistic, knowing they are on a journey of rebuilding and with some solid stocks to build on.
The recently promoted Aaron Edwards has returned from the football wilderness with a hunger for success which is evident every time he takes the field, today signaling his best game in the black and gold colors. Vickery backed up a very good game against the Bulldogs with another solid performance, while Nathan Foley is playing himself back into form after an extended break through injury. For the Saints, Steven and Armitage showed solid signs while Dal Santo and Riewoldt never gave up despite chasing jumpers for most of the day.
Richmond will aim for five wins on-the-trot against North Melbourne in Round 15 while the Saints take on a hungry Fremantle outfit at Patersons Stadium in Western Australia.
Scoreboard Richmond: 4.4 10.9 15.13 17.17 (119) St Kilda: 3.2 4.4 7.5 8.7 (55) Best Players Richmond: Foley, Vickery, Cotchin, A. Edwards, Jackson, Conca St Kilda: Dennis-Lane, Armitage, Ray, Steven, Jones
Article last changed on Thursday, July 04, 2013 - 12:59 AM EDT