Brook Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA from Australia
A Round 23 clash between two struggling clubs would normally not attract a lot of attention but this round had a high level of importance for both Richmond and Melbourne. The Tigers had seemingly lost their way after an exciting start to the season but, coming off a thumping 47 point win against perennial finalist Sydney, they appeared to have their mojo back. If they could pull off a win against Melbourne – a feat they had not managed since Round 18, 2009 – some momentum could be regained as the Tigers move into a very important off-season. Melbourne on the other hand, has had its season torn apart over the past month, going from a highly-touted dynasty built around Trengove, Scully and Watts to a team which sacked its coach after some abysmal late season performances. Amazingly, the Demons could still mathematically make the Finals with a win over Richmond and games against cellar-dwelling Gold Coast and Port Adelaide to follow.
The Tigers have struggled in first quarters all season, winning just three out of 20 prior to this game. As the siren sounded, that statistic became irrelevant. The Richmond midfield, led by Shane Tuck and Nathan Foley, hunted the footy with tenacity, and when they moved the ball into the forward line they worked hard to keep it there. Ex-Demon Brad Miller was the target as high profile forward Jack Riewoldt played decoy, and the Tigers had three goals on the board within seven minutes. The Tigers continued to hound the Demon defenders with excellent forward pressure, but slippery midfielder Jack Trengove managed a goal against the tide for the Demons. Colin Sylvia followed up with a second before Richmond once again began to dominate the stoppages. The Tigers were their own worst enemy in front of goal however, failing to convert gettable chances and extend their lead significantly. When the siren sounded for quarter time, Richmond held a 14 point lead that should have been much greater given their dominance around the ground during the quarter.
Melbourne worked harder after the first break, but could not get playmaker Aaron Davey into the contest. Davey, playing his 150th game, was being well blanketed by Richmond’s Bachar Houli, so much so that Davey had just one possession to half time. The frustration continued to build for Davey who not only gave away a costly free kick but felled Richmond wingman Mitch Morton in an incident that earned him a one match sanction from the AFL Match Review Panel. Sylvia, despite being reported in the first quarter for a hit on young Tiger Jayden Post (resulting in a two match sanction from the MRP), was sensational for the Demons throughout the quarter. He continued to accumulate possessions and even managed to take a screamer of a mark over Tiger defender Matt Dea, converting the resulting kick into one of his five goals for the afternoon. It was goal for goal with Sylvia and Liam Jurrah prominent for Melbourne until late in the quarter when Richmond regained the ascendancy with consecutive goals through Jake King, Angus Graham and Miller. At half time, the Tigers had a handy 26 point lead which could have been a lot more considering their domination of the inside 50m count, 30 entries to 18.
Melbourne coach Todd Viney tinkered with his charges for the third quarter, moving the frustrated Davey into defense along with the quiet Jack Watts. The Demons burst out of the blocks, outworking the Tigers in the contested possessions. After just four minutes of play, the Demons had two goals on the board and were closing fast. Against the run of play, Dustin Martin managed a freak dribbled goal for the Tigers to keep them ahead but Melbourne continued to dominate possession. Nathan Jones for the Demons was brilliant, having numerous possessions and popping up for a couple of goals to put Melbourne in front. With a 7.1 to 1.3 third quarter, Melbourne had turned the game on its head by outdoing a rattled Richmond both in contests and tackling and causing a 34 point turnaround. At three quarter time the Demons led by eight points and looked to have the game in its grasp.
Richmond’s character would be tested in the final quarter. Livewire Robin Nahas put the icing on some nice work by Trent Cotchin in the center of the ground to record the first goal of the final term. Substitute Jeromey Webberley was activated for the Tigers with immediate results. Webberley streamed down the flank and thumped a 50 meter long goal that put Richmond back in front. Looking more like the Tiger outfit from the first half, they were working hard in and under the packs and applying hard tackles on their Melbourne counterparts. Sylvia rose to the challenge, shooting on goal to put Melbourne back in front by two points. Richmond’s Brett Deledio had had a very slow day by his lofty standards but his desperate smother off a Melbourne boot in the goal square saved a sure goal. It was a cracking finish as the lead see-sawed back and forward. King, Martin and Shane Edwards combined to get the ball in the hands of Cotchin who bullocked his way through traffic to goal for the Tigers. Richmond had the momentum but missed several chances to put the game beyond doubt until a bit of magic from full forward Riewoldt who goaled and extended the Tigers’ lead to nine points. Daniel Jackson and Edwards were in everything for the Tigers, and when young gun Martin managed a terrific goal while standing up in a tackle, the result was all but sealed. Melbourne managed two late goals through Sylvia and Jones but Richmond kept the lead and ran out deserving winners by just seven points.
The Tigers will be buoyed by two solid wins and travel to Adelaide in Round 23 to face a rejuvenated Crows’ outfit that will be a big test for Damien Hardwick’s young squad. For the Demons, the year continues to go pear-shaped with any chance of a Finals berth now completely snuffed out. Melbourne finish the season with games against the lowly-placed Gold Coast and Port Adelaide, both games they should pencil in as potential wins.
Melbourne: 4.0 7.1 14.2 17.8 (110)
Richmond: 6.2 10.9 11.12 17.15 (117)
Melbourne: Sylvia, Jones, McKenzie, Bartram, Jamar
Richmond: Foley, Miller, Houli, Tuck, Martin, Rance
Article last changed on Thursday, August 25, 2011 - 8:09 PM EDT