Brook “Boris” Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA from Australia
In an unlikely “match of the round”, form teams St Kilda and Richmond met at Etihad Stadium in front of a pumped up Friday Night Footy crowd. The Tigers had not beaten St Kilda since 2003, though they came painfully close in the corresponding match just 12 months earlier when the game ended in a tense draw. The Saints were instilled as slight favorites with the bookmakers, in part due to the Tigers' poor form at Etihad and the aforementioned head to head record. St Kilda has been transformed into a more attacking team under new coach Scott Watters, giving the match all of the ingredients for an enthralling contest.
As the umpire bounced the ball to get the stadium rocking, it was Richmond into attack first. Jack Riewoldt managed a behind for Richmond with his first chance for the night, and from then on the pattern of the game became obvious – it was going to be an old fashioned shootout as both teams attacked at every chance. Just five minutes in and the Tigers drew first blood with a goal from Jack, followed by both sides missing chances through Deledio, Milne and Ellis. The Saints finally had their first goal at the nine minute mark as the speedy Ahmed Saad banged the ball through the goals, his speed causing all sorts of chaos for the Tiger back line. Minutes later it was Saad again, scoring full points to put the Saints in front for the first time. In keeping with the breakneck pace of the game, it was the Tigers' turn to get on top with Riewoldt and the hard working Shane Tuck registering consecutive goals. While Trent Cotchin was seemingly everywhere for the Tigers, the Saints were holding sway with some excellent passing into their forward 50. At the 19 minute mark, Nick Dal Santo threaded through a goal from 30 meters out to keep the scoreboard operator working overtime. Justin Koschitzke earned a free kick just ten meters from goal but unbelievably kicked like a wounded mule and missed to the right. In a frenetic start to the game, Richmond dominated possession. However the Saints used the ball better to trail by just three points at quarter time.
Quarter two was underway with the Saints into attack first. Nick Riewoldt was trying to keep pace with his cousin at the other end but missed a chance at his first goal of the night. The Tigers marched the ball downfield with precision and Shane Edwards was on the receiving end. Edwards converted with a well-weighted kick to give Richmond some breathing space. The pace of the game was not slowing however, and Koschitzke had his second chance at a goal when he took a strong mark deep in attack for the Saints. This time “Kosy” kept his cool and booted the goal. The Tigers once again went to their go-to guy in Jack Riewoldt to stay on top. Out of form in recent weeks, Jack was looking on song as he put through goal number three. Not to be denied, St Kilda worked through the corridor to put extra pressure on the Richmond backs. A loose ball was picked up by the mercurial Stephen Milne who kicked a trademark "around the body" goal. At the 15 minute mark it was Nick Riewoldt’s turn to goal for the Saints and put them back in front. In a game that resembled basketball more than footy, the ball rebounded back and forth from one end to the other. Spectators were on their feet when Jack launched himself above the pack to pull down a spectacular mark. He converted the goal and the Tigers were back in front. A goal out of mid-air on the line was put through by Edwards before the sneaky Saad replied for the Saints. The fans hardly had time to blink before Jack and Brendon Goddard goaled for their teams inside a minute. When Terry Milera banged home another, it looked like the Saints would go into half time with a slender lead. With less than 30 seconds to go, Brett Deledio of the Tigers decided there was plenty of time to squeeze in another goal and he launched a beauty to put the Tigers back on top with just seconds remaining. As the fans made their way for refreshments and a lie down after a frenetic and high scoring first half, Richmond had the lead 9.8 to 9.6.
Relatively quiet in the first half, Richmond’s Robin Nahas had a blinder in the third quarter. Just two minutes in, Nahas registered his first goal for the evening before almost bagging a second. The first 10 minutes saw more contested football as the scoring temporarily dried up, but that was about to change. Ivan Maric again made his presence felt as he has all season since crossing to Richmond from Adelaide. Maric goaled at the 11 minute mark before Nahas popped up again for his second. On cue, the Saints came back yet again as Nick Riewoldt got one back at the other end to stay in touch. A series of rushed behinds and misses from Saad and Milne let the Tigers of the hook. In a complete contrast to the first half, while the pace of the game continued to be hot, forwards were struggling for space which in turn kept the scoring down. Jack Riewoldt was covered by two Saints to quell his influence while Alex Rance and company held firm at the other end. At the final break, the Tigers held a nine point advantage and it was still anybody’s game.
Milne had the first chance of the final quarter but his shot missed to the near post – much to the delight of the Tiger fans behind the goals. Some fantastic play by Cotchin in the center had Riewoldt loose and he handballed on to Jackson. The resultant pass hit Ty Vickery at just inside the 50 meter mark. Vickery went back and launched a picture perfect drop punt that never looked like missing. The Tigers were up and about with a 15 point lead, and Dustin Martin doubled the dosage with a running goal to put Richmond up by 21 points. Ten minutes in and Richmond was looking the goods, but this game still had plenty of twists and turns. David Armitage got one back for the Saints and the wheels started to fall off for Richmond. A barrage of free kicks and some determined play had the Saints on the march as Nick Riewoldt and Gram goaled again for the Saints. With less than a goal in it, the game reached fever pitch. As Nick Dal Santo streamed towards goal, a fierce tackle appeared to catch him holding the ball. No call was made by the umpire as play went on and once again Gram found himself with the footy after a scramble in the square. He threw the ball on his boot, it went through and at the 16 minute mark St Kilda was in front! In the blink of an eye the Saints had banged through four consecutive goals and the Tigers looked gone. Enter substitute Addam Maric. As Goddard took the ball out of defense for the Saints, Maric, in a pivotal moment, decided to leave his man and take Goddard on. Maric forced the ball to ground and it was collected by the Tigers' Shane Edwards. The ball came back to Maric who nailed a 30 meter pass to a wide open Jack Riewoldt. Jack waltzed into goal and the Tigers were back in front. Back to the other end it went and Terry Milera goaled for the Saints! Supporters of both sides were on their feet in a frenzy. To the 21 minute mark and the Tigers would not go quietly. A pass to Riewoldt again set him up - for goal number seven - before young defender Brandon Ellis went forward to nail another one for Richmond. As the Saints pushed forward, the Tigers caught them on the rebound and the ball once again ended up with Riewoldt who kicked goal number eight to put his team up by 15 points. With four minutes to play Armitage goaled for St Kilda before the Tigers shut them down to go on with an eight point victory in one of the most entertaining games of AFL this season. The Saints' hoodoo over Richmond had been broken and the Tiger fans sang the club song with gusto.
Both teams played some great football but it was Jack Riewoldt’s forward dominance that won the day. Richmond and St Kilda now both have 5-5 records and sit just outside the Top Eight. The Tigers take on Fremantle at the MCG in Round 11 while the Saints take on Gary Ablett and the Gold Coast Suns up north.
Scoreboard Richmond: 3.7 9.8 12.11 18.13 (121) St Kilda: 3.4 9.6 10.14 16.17 (113) Best Players Richmond: J Riewoldt, Deledio, Nahas, I Maric, Cotchin, Grigg, Newman, Tuck St Kilda: Armitage, Saad, Gram, N Riewoldt, Goddard, Montagna
Article last changed on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 - 10:32 AM EDT