Brook "Boris" Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA from Australia
A massive crowd of over 80,000 footy fans streamed into the MCG to witness the Dreamtime clash between the Essendon Bombers and the Richmond Tigers. The game had been built up as a battle between two up and coming teams. The Bombers were sitting pretty near the top of the AFL Ladder with a 6-1 record versus the Tigers who were coming off good wins against Port and Sydney to be knocking on the door of the Top Eight. As the pre-game festivities showcasing Indigenous performers came to a close, the Tigers ran onto the MCG looking resplendent in their special “Dreamtime” guernseys designed by Indigenous artist Stuart Harradine. The Bombers chose the more conservative standard red sash, and as both teams shaped up for the first bounce the huge crowd roared in anticipation of a great game of footy.
The first ball out of the centrer was won by Richmond’s Brett Deledio who banged the Sherrin goalward. The resultant loose ball was scooped up by Dustin Martin who snapped the first goal of the game, much to the delight of the Tiger fans in attendance. The next few minutes became the Paddy Ryder show as the Bomber forward stretched the Tiger defense with his height and marking ability. Ryder marked and goaled to tie the scores before a Tiger defensive blunder allowed Alwyn Davey to post the Bombers' second goal in quick time. Barely four minutes in it was again Ryder who marked down low before kicking another goal to lead Essendon to a 12 point buffer over the shellshocked Tigers. Some fluid play by Richmond took the ball from deep in the backline to Deledio who fed Shaun Grigg for a long 50 meter bomb to keep the Tiger scoreboard ticking over. Just when it looked like the Tiger backline was getting settled, it was Ryder again, receiving on the run before finishing nicely with a 30 meter goal. After an initial miss on goal from a free kick, Angus Monfries once again received from Michael Hurley and this time he made no mistake to send Essendon to a handy 18 point lead. With five minutes remaining in the quarter, it was Essendon’s turn to make a mistake as Kyle Hardingham dropped a mark deep in defense. Shane Tuck swooped on the crumbs and delivered to a running Robbie Nahas who goaled for the Tigers. The crowd were getting their money's worth as both teams played attacking footy. Essendon's Zaharakis moved the ball well from defense to find an open Jobe Watson on the lead. Watson made no mistake to conserve the handy lead, but a sensational late goal from Jack Riewoldt on the boundary pegged the margin back to 12 points at quarter time.
Essendon started the second quarter being first to the ball again with Leroy Jetta breaking towards goal, receiving the ball and running in to an unguarded goal square to register the Bombers' seventh six-pointer for the evening. As Richmond defender Steve Morris brushed by Jetta after the goal, the Essendon forward took a dive that Greg Louganis would have been proud of, in an attempt to “con” the umpire into a free kick. The umpire was having none of it, and actually reprimanded Jetta for his “staging” of the free. Play continued and it was Essendon making all of the running. Watson fortuitously received a free kick for a high tackle and made no mistake with the resultant kick for goal, taking the Bombers to a handy 23 point lead at the five minute mark of the quarter. Goals to Jetta and Cotchin kept the status quo until a comedy of errors gifted a goal to the Tigers through Martin. After Robin Nahas inexplicably tried to pinpoint a pass just 35 meters from goal and Bomber Kyle Hardingham intercepted, Hardingham then tried an equally ambitious pass out of defense that was picked off by Martin who put a goal on the board for the Tigers. With six minutes remaining and a 20 point Essendon lead, tragedy struck for the Tigers as key defender Dylan Grimes went down with a hamstring injury. Incredibly, Grimes badly injured his hamstring in the corresponding Dreamtime game just 12 months ago, forcing him to miss the rest of the season. As Grimes sat forlorn with head in hands on the bench, the Tigers reshuffled their backline in an attempt to stay in the game. Unfortunately the early returns were not good as Essendon steamrolled them in a five minute blitz with two goals to Stanton and one to Monfries. Richmond had their chances but Conca, Cotchin and Martin all missed easy shots within range. At half time, despite an even count of inside 50 meter entries, the Bombers enjoyed a comfortable 35 point lead.
A poor turnover to start the third quarter resulted in Paddy Ryder’s fourth goal and a seemingly unassailable 42 point lead. In past years the Tigers would have been expected to capitulate but the new regime is made of sterner stuff. The next ten minutes saw Richmond work tirelessly with the ball and tackle relentlessly without it. Cotchin was everywhere and had solid support from the diminutive Shane Edwards who goaled at the five minute mark. Despite dominating this period of the game, the Tigers continued to miss gettable goals that would have put immense pressure on the Bombers. Brad Miller not only didn’t make the distance from 45 meters out, he also dropped a simple hand pass that would have resulted in a certain goal. Martin missed an easy shot and the Tiger fans were becoming clearly frustrated as the weight of possession was not converted into goals. A deft tap-on from Jack Riewoldt gifted Miller a goal and the margin was back to 26 points. Just when momentum seemed to be in the Tigers' favor, a dubious holding the ball call was made against Ivan Maric as the ball was held to him by Stanton. Ivan let fly at the umpire with his own interpretation of the decision and it cost him a 50 meter penalty and a goal to Essendon. The replay showed that Ivan had a very strong case as the decision was clearly incorrect. To their credit, the Tigers stuck at it and goals to Deledio and Grigg brought them to within 20 points of the Bombers. A steadying goal to Crameri calmed the Bomber fans' nerves, while several more misses from the Tigers through Deledio, Foley and King raised the ire of the Richmond faithful. In a game that was being progressively dominated by the Tigers as a contest, their poor finishing in front of goal was costing them a chance of victory. A goal to Daniel Jackson for the Tigers was countered with a crucial late goal to Howlett within the last minute of the quarter. As the siren sounded it was Essendon a 23 point lead to the Bombers. Richmond had dominated the Inside 50’s to the tune of 19 to 9, but didn’t get the reward due to poor finishing.
As the final quarter commenced the huge crowd was at fever pitch as supporters of both teams sensed the tense battle that was about to ensue. When the busy Edwards potted a goal for Richmond in the first minute of the quarter, the Black and Gold army was up and about. Another minute passed and the Tigers were all over the Bombers. Cotchin won a 50 meter penalty and sent his shot just inside the post for another Richmond goal. Now just 11 points behind and with the crowd behind them, the Tigers still appeared to have energy left after their torrid third quarter. At the five minute mark Edwards goaled again and the MCG erupted as the Tigers moved to within a goal. A Bomber turnover gave Cotchin the chance to put the Tigers in front at the 10 minute mark and he didn’t disappoint his fans as he sent his kick through the big white sticks. Richmond had snatched the lead! In a game that ebbed and flowed it appeared that Richmond, through sheer running power and relentless tackling, had overcome a more skilled Essendon team. However there was another twist in the tail. Watson started a rebound play that ended with the subsitute Lovett-Murray who snapped a beauty to put the Bombers back in front. A couple of minutes later it was Monfries who goaled for the Bombers and a 10 point lead now rested with Essendon. The crowd noise from the 80,900 in attendance was immense as both teams fought hard to take home the four points. Another bad miss from Miller broke the Tiger hearts, before Ellis also missed from 45 meters out. The arm wrestle ended when Davey put the nail in the Tiger coffin with just a few minutes remaining.
Despite Richmond having 65 entries inside 50 meters to Essendon’s 46, the Bombers ran out 18 point victors in a sensational game of AFL football. The effort involved to come back from 42 points took its toll on the Tigers, who simply ran out of gas in the closing stages of the game. The end result was purely about class, with Essendon’s superior poise in front of goal earning them the victory. That the Bombers managed to win after falling behind also suggests a great belief between the players as a team. All in all it was a wonderful spectacle and a great advertisement for our beautiful game.
Despite copping a shower from an errant Coke bottle from his deputy in Bomber Thompson, Essendon coach James Hird would have been over the moon with the result, taking his team to a 7-1 record. The Bombers now take on the youthful GWS Giants in Round 9, while frustrated Coach Damien Hardwick and his wounded Tigers have to face up against Buddy Franklin and the rampaging Hawthorn, fresh off a big win against the Fremantle Dockers.
Scoreboard: Essendon 6.2 12.7 16.9 19.14 (128) Richmond 4.2 6.8 11.16 15.19 (109) Best Players: Essendon: Watson, Stanton, Ryder, Heppell, Hooker Richmond: Deledio, Cotchin, Edwards, Grigg, Maric
Article last changed on Wednesday, September 19, 2018 - 3:53 PM EDT