Rick Browner reporting for AFANA from Patersons Stadium, Perth
In recent years Patersons Stadium has been a fortress for the West Coast Eagles against Richmond with 12 of the last 14 matches going West Coast’s way. The Richmond Tigers had been given no chance of winning the Round 20 encounter particularly with the Eagles celebrating 25 years in the competition and knocking on the door of a Final Four berth. Tiger fans hoped that with nothing to lose, Richmond might come out with a hunger to play and rain on the Eagles’ parade.
First on the board was a Jack Darling mark and goal for the Eagles. Richmond replied immediately when Dustin Martin speared a pass on to the chest of Brad Miller who kicked straight. The ever-improving Brad Ebert read the ball off hands and strolled in for an easy goal. Much of the play was in the Eagles’ forward half but Richmond made the most of their entries into their 50 meter zone, kicking the next two goals against the flow of play. The first came from ex-Eagle Mitch Morton, who dribbled a long kick through the goals. Miller kicked his second from a mark. Richmond took the lead at this point and the Tigers had their tails up. Unlike past weeks, there was an air of determination about them and a belief that they might just take this game on. Mark Nicoski soon stamped his authority on the contest with two goals from free kicks. Ebert scored his second after the ball traveled the full length of the ground in quick order, but when Tyrone Vickery made the most of quick ball movement out of the middle, his goal had Richmond trailing by only seven points at the first change.
Richmond was put on the back foot when Quinten Lynch took a strong mark and kicked a 50 yard goal to start the second quarter. Speedy Robin Nahas did his job roving the packs and picked up the Tigers’ fifth goal for the game. From that point on however, it was the Nic Naitanui show. He took a spectacular mark on the wing in front of the appreciative Eagles’ members and the ball soon found itself in the capable hands of Dean Cox who kicked a goal. Nicoski scored his third from a Lynch mark and handball and it looked like that might be the end for Richmond. However Vickery steadied the visitors with a goal from a good transition up the ground by his team mates to keep the Tigers in touch. The Eagles were dominating in the clearances and also benefiting from a fairly lopsided free kick count. Naitanui was given a free kick for a ruck infringement and scored his first goal of the game. Darling scored from another free kick and the Eagles were running away with the game. Naitanui received a bullet pass from Luke Shuey after a turnover and his goal gave the Eagles a handy 34 point lead at the half time break. West Coast was winning the ball away from the bounces both in the center and at stoppages, and Shuey was carving up the opposition with his ball use.
One of the few weaknesses with the Eagles this year has been their third quarter performances and a tendency to lose momentum and be outscored. Richmond would have been aware of this and came out to start the quarter with enthusiasm. Ebert scored first for the Eagles but Jake King got one back. His good roving skills and accurate kick around his body was a tonic for his team. Ebert and Nicoski both scored goals to restore the balance but Jack Riewoldt finally broke free from the Darren Glass clamp and came into the game. He kicked his first goal deep into the quarter giving the Tigers a slight sniff of possibility. The Richmond coaching staff sensed it too, activating substitute Reece Conca for Daniel Jackson to get fresh legs into the contest. As has become the norm, once one side brings in their substitute, the other follows and Chris Masten soon replaced Matt Rosa for the Eagles. Shane Tuck scored back to back goals for Richmond to bring the margin back to 33 points. A 50 meter penalty for encroaching on the mark gave Darling a gift for his third goal. Daniel Kerr is slowly returning to his best after ongoing injury issues and had been influential in farming the ball out to his team mates all day. His read of the ball off the pack and subsequent goal restored the gap for the Eagles but there was still some determined opposition to contend with from the Tigers. Brett Deledeo scored the goal of the day when he took possession of the ball at the 50 meter line and snapped across his body to see the ball sail straight through the middle. Darling, who is looking more and more comfortable as a key West Coast forward, floated across and took a mark on the goal line and kicked truly for his fourth. It was now or never for Richmond and Riewoldt didn’t let them down. He kicked two more goals, one with 14 seconds to go while Bachar Houli added to the score when he goaled from a 50 meter penalty free kick. The Tigers had clawed their way back into the contest to trail by 27 points at the final break.
West Coast’s forward press was working well at the start of the final term. Shannon Hurn drifted up from the back line to score a rare goal that started a succession of Eagles’ goals. West Coast kicked the next four goals to snuff out any chance of a Tigers’ resurgence. Nicoski kicked two more to take his tally to six for the game. Mark LeCras finally got on the board when he marked a pass after a great run and carry by Patrick McGinnity along the outer wing. Shuey finished up a best on ground performance with a goal after being awarded a free kick for a high tackle. Riewoldt helped his chances for the Coleman Medal (for the most goals kicked for the season) when he marked and goaled with 14 seconds left on the clock.
In the end it was a party, as the Eagles won their 25th Anniversary game by a commanding 57 points and kept their Final Four chances very much alive. To their credit, Richmond never gave up the fight but were outclassed by their opponents when it mattered. The Eagles have a good draw on the run to the Finals, playing teams that are below them all the way home. Richmond is out of the Finals race and will begin to concentrate on next year and ponder on what happened to their promising start to the season.
To view David Woodley's photos of this match, go to: http://www.afana.com/drupal5/category/image_galleries/2011_season/2011_season_photo_essays/round_20_west_coast_v_richmond/14-1892
Scoreboard West Coast: 5.2 11.6 17.8 22.15 (147) Richmond 4.1 6.2 13.5 14.6 (90) Best Players West Coast: L Shuey, D Kerr, M Nicoski, A Gaff, Q Lynch, N Naitanui Richmond: S Tuck, N Foley, T Vickery, B Deledio, M Dea
Article last changed on Thursday, August 11, 2011 - 9:37 AM EDT