Brook Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA from Australia
Fresh from an unexpected victory over the all-conquering Cats, Essendon were favored to continue their resurgence with a win over a Richmond team coming off a belting at the hands of a rampaging Carlton. Essendon made one forced change from the team that beat Geelong, with the injured Andrew Welsh making way for Ricky Dyson. The Tigers decided not to make wholesale changes in the wake of their dismal display against Carlton, recalling Luke McGuane to bolster a thin defense and bringing back young draftee Reece Conca after a week’s rest.
As the “clash of the sash” got underway, the MCG was buzzing and it was Richmond that looked set to wash away the embarrassment of the previous week by going in hard at every contest. Both teams made early mistakes but surprisingly it was the Tigers who were more efficient with their forward entries. Whilst star forward Jack Reiwoldt struggled to break free from the close attention of Michael Hurley, it was pint-sized dynamo Nathan Foley doing the damage with two early goals. Richmond has struggled with first quarters all season but their accuracy in front of goal helped them to an eight point first quarter lead. Brett Deledio, Trent Cotchin and Dustin Martin were performing well, and without a recognised ruckman it was left to Ty Vickery to compete with the two-headed monster of David Hille and Paddy Ryder. Some post-siren unpleasantries between the two combattants resulted in a few torn jumpers and no doubt some extra work for the Match Review Committee during the week.
Richmond continued its hard work early in the second quarter and threatened to break the game open, only to see Essendon fight back after some Stewart Crameri brilliance. Crameri was giving the Tiger back line some headaches with his mobility and ability to find space. Richmond used handball to create free running space for their quality midfielders but sadly the very same tactics brought them undone on occasion as their skills were found wanting. The game had turned into an arm wrestle with neither side able to maintain momentum. Two late goals to Reiwoldt and the oft-injured Ben Griffiths gave the Tigers a nine point buffer heading into the main break.
Richmond’s hard running continued into the third quarter and a goal to Vickery had them looking the goods as they stretched their lead to 23 points. Unfortunately for Coach Damien Hardwick and the loyal Tiger faithful, missed opportunities in front of goal kept Essendon in the game, and ultimately led to their downfall as the Bombers fought back. An absolute howler of a mistake by Richmond captain Chris Newman gifted a goal to the Bombers Angus Monfries and from that point on the Tigers lost their composure. Brett Stanton was having an influence on the Bombers resurgence with his tackling and attacking work, while ex-Cat Brent Prismall was dominant around the packs. Essendon bombarded the goals but their finishing was wayward until ex-Bomber turned Tiger Bachar Houli lost his footing while trying to evade Crameri in the back pocket in the last minute of the quarter. The resulting goal embarrassed the Tigers and handing Essendon an ascendancy that they would not give up. While Richmond held on to a three point lead at three-quarter time, all the momentum was with James Hird’s Bombers as opposite number Damien Hardwick looked frustrated at his error-riddled Tiger defense.
The final quarter was all Essendon as David Zaharakis, who was becoming one of the best players on the ground, kicked a goal to put the Bombers in front within a minute of the restart. Alwyn Davey backed it up with another Bomber goal within seconds of the ball-up and the Bombers were on a roll. Richmond players struggled to get their hands on the ball as Essendon took over the ruck contests and in turn the clearances around the ground. When the dust had settled, the Bombers had racked up seven last quarter goals whole the Tigers could not even manage one. One could have been forgiven for thinking the Richmond boys had taken an early shower as Essendon completely dominated all facets of the game to go on and record a comfortable 39 point victory.
The reward for Essendon was a spot in the Top Eight while Richmond has a week to pick up the pieces before flying to Cairns for their first ever Gold Coast game at Cazaly Stadium. What would have seemed like a certain victory for the Tigers a month ago now looms as a real test for the confidence of this young team. The Bombers on the other hand have regained their mojo after a tough mid-season slump. They travel to Adelaide next week and will feel confident of maintaining their place in the top eight as they face a Crow outfit that is a shadow of its former self.
Scoreboard Essendon 3.5 5.9 8.12 15.15 (105) Richmond 5.1 7.6 9.9 9.12 (66) Best players Essendon: B Stanton, D Zaharakis, S Crameri, B Prismall, D Heppell, M Hurley Richmond: T Cotchin, S Edwards, J Batchelor, N Foley, T Vickery
Article last changed on Wednesday, September 19, 2018 - 3:53 PM EDT