Brook “Boris” Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA from Australia
A solid crowd of 40,000 plus pushed through the turnstiles of the MCG to witness the Round 7 twilight clash between the Richmond Tigers and the Sydney Swans. The Richmond faithful, feeling good after a win against Port Adelaide, were once again pinning their hopes on victory against a Top Four contender, this time in the guise of the ultra-consistent Sydney. The Swans on the other hand were looking to rebound after a shock home loss to the Adelaide Crows after previously being undefeated. The feeling among the spectators was that Richmond was a real chance to take out the game with Sydney spiritual leader and gun forward Adam Goodes out of the team through injury. The Tigers were without Ty Vickery with a calf injury, and with no late changes to the selected line-ups the anticipation at the MCG was evident. Rookie Brandon Ellis was selected as the Richmond substitute while Sydney opted for Trent Dennis-Lane to wear the green vest.
As the first quarter commenced, it was the hungry Tigers who jumped out of the gate early. Trent Cotchin and Nathan Foley were busily receiving the ruck taps from big Ivan Maric and sending the ball deep into the Tiger forward line. Within a couple of minutes a Cotchin handball found Jack Riewoldt who snapped through the first goal of the game. The forward pressure by Richmond in the early stages had Sydney under immense pressure, which finally saw Ted Richards caught in a vise-like Dustin Martin tackle. The result was a holding the ball decision and a shot on goal for Martin who didn’t let the Tiger fans down as he booted the ball through for their second goal. The Richmond ambush continued with running players seemingly everywhere. Once again in attack the ball was kicked towards Brett Deledio in the forward pocket. He marked strongly but inexplicably the umpire called “play on” as Deledio and the surrounding players stood dumbfounded and Sydney took the ball away. The Swans could not find any structure in their forward line as quick handball from the Tigers continually repelled any attack sent their way. After a Brad Miller miss, Riewoldt marked again and put Richmond’s third goal on the board. It was quickly becoming one way traffic as the Tiger midfield did as it pleased, dominating the clearances. A clever piece of play in the Tiger forward line saw Reece Conca mark 35 meters out and his set shot registered another six-pointer for the home team. When Miller marked again near the close of the quarter, the Tigers had 5.6 on the board to Sydney’s 0.2. Richmond, led by Cotchin and Foley with 11 possessions each, completely dominated the term with strong cameos from Dustin Martin and Shaun Grigg.
Sydney needed to respond quickly if they wanted to stay in the game and that is exactly what they did. Inside the first two minutes of the quarter, Daniel Hannebery, making the most of a Jake Batchelor turnover, put the Sydney-siders' first goal on the board to bring the margin back to 28 points. Rather than inspire the visiting Swans, this once again seemed to ignite the Tigers as they bounced back into action. Miller, playing the secondary forward role in the absence of Vickery, sent a sweet shot through the goal posts from 50 meters to restore the Tigers' 34 point buffer. It was then the turn of Tiger cult hero Ivan Maric to send the Richmond faithful into a frenzy as he spun around onto his right boot to kick another goal for Richmond. At the 10 minute mark of the second quarter the Tigers had dominated possession and used the ball with effect to forge a very handy 40 point lead. The Swans, to their credit, worked hard to stem the Tiger run, and at the 17 minute mark the impressive Josh Kennedy goaled for Sydney. After Richmond had dominated contested possession for most of the game the Swans were slowly working their way back into the contest by enlisting one on one tactics to stop the Tiger run. As the half time siren sounded it was Richmond with the ascendancy and a 32 point lead. Despite winning every key statistic and looking by far the better side, the Tigers still had a fight on their hands with a determined Sydney outfit.
It was more of the same as the third quarter started with Riewoldt marking the footy from a Cotchin clearance. With the chance to score a very handy first goal the Tiger forward missed to the left. Richmond once again appeared in control for the first few minutes of the quarter, but a cheap 50 meter penalty to Andrejs Everett for the player encroaching over the mark, gifted the Swans the first goal of the quarter. The fact that it was Richmond Captain Chris Newman who gave the penalty away for a certain goal would have had coach Damien Hardwick spitting venom in the coaching box. A couple of minutes later the Swans once again moved forward through the speedy Lewis Jetta. Jetta spotted up Heath Grundy with a pass into the forward pocket, where Grundy took the mark about 25 meters from goal on a tight angle. He sized up the goalposts, went back and delivered another Sydney goal. At the eight minute mark the Tiger lead had been cut to 21 points and the “never say die” spirit of Sydney was on display for the 40,000 fans in attendance. The next 10 minutes became a scramble as both sides failed to find open targets in their forward lines. The urgency of the game conspired once again to tighten up the contest into hard, aggressive, one on one football. Richmond’s Martin found himself free for long enough to take a mark 40 meters out but he sprayed the shot wide. Grigg then received the ball in space 45 meters out following a Malceski turnover. He didn’t let the Tiger fans down, drilling his shot through to relieve the pressure. Once again the Swans hit back, and at the 22 minute mark Ben McGlynn kicked a good goal from 45 meters out for the Swans and the margin was back to 20 points. If Richmond coach Hardwick had been upset before, he would have been downright livid as Sydney’s Jetta passed to Kennedy with just seconds remaining in the quarter. Kennedy set sail for goal as the siren sounded – and nailed it. With just a quarter to play, the gutsy Sydney had reduced the margin to 14 points and the question would once again be asked whether the Tigers had the mental toughness to beat a Top Four team. Kennedy once again showed his Brownlow Medal contending form with a sensational quarter for the Swans after a quiet first half, while Deledio was working his way into the game for Richmond.
With a backdrop of noisy Tiger fans trying to will the home team to victory, the final quarter got underway. Sydney went forward and looked to score early, but a sensational tackle by Tiger back man Batchelor on McGlynn stopped the attack in its tracks. At the four minute mark Daniel Jackson wrenched the ball out to Grigg who sent a long shot goalward from 50 meters out. The ball split the center and the Tigers were out to a 20 point lead. After the restart, the Tiger midfield of Edwards and Jackson took control giving Riewoldt the chance to goal from 15 meters out. He converted his shot and the Sydney charge appeared to have been snuffed out. Just minutes later Riewoldt marked again on the lead and kicked truly for his fourth goal of the day. With a 32 point lead at the 10 minute mark the Tigers looked home. Unbelievably, an interchange mix-up by Brandon Ellis coming on as the substitute gave Sydney a free kick and 50 meter penalty. Mark Seaby took the ball just inside the 50 meter arc and banged it through, much to the disgust of the Richmond interchange stewards. There were a couple of misses at both ends before Tiger winger Grigg bobbed up to receive the ball 50 meters from goal. A difference maker all day, the ex-Carlton player launched another tidy drop punt over the goal umpire's head and it was party time for the Tigers. At the 24 minute mark Sydney sub Trent Dennis-Lane goaled from a free kick to bring the margin back to 29 points and that was how the match ended, with the Tigers running out winners as the black and gold flags waved fiercely in the crowd.
Jack Riewoldt was instrumental in getting Richmond the win as was Nathan Foley with an outstanding final quarter. Shaun Grigg kicked arguably the three most important goals of the day as he stemmed every Sydney comeback with long goals on each occasion.
Richmond 5.6 7.9 8.11 13.13 (91)
Sydney 0.2 2.7 6.9 8.14 (62)
Richmond: Cotchin, Grigg, Foley, Grimes, Martin, Deledio, Maric
Sydney Swans: Kennedy, Jetta, Bolton, O’Keefe, Hannebery