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Richmond and Carlton headed to the MCG on Saturday night desperate for a change in fortune. With the Blues sitting in 11th position and the Tigers 12th, a loss in their round 18 clash would spell curtains for any post-season aspirations in 2012. Richmond, fresh off narrow defeats to Gold Coast and North Melbourne, were searching for a win against a Carlton team that has completely dominated them over the last few seasons. The Blues were riddled with injury after being touted as premiership favorites just a couple of months earlier, their problems exacerbated by losing prime mover Chris Judd to a bizarre “tackle” against the Kangaroos in Round 17. Matthew Kreuzer and Kane Lucas returned for Carlton, while Richmond welcomed back spiritual leader Jake King from a knee injury.

The first quarter was played in slippery conditions with the Tigers making the early running. Clearing out their forward 50 meter arc, Richmond used both Trent Cotchin and Dustin Martin as resting small forwards with great effect. Both players were too strong for Carlton backman Marcus Davies, and by quarter time had five goals between them. At the other end it was Eddie Betts causing the Tigers trouble as his ball use in the damp conditions was too slick for the Richmond backs. At quarter time the Tigers led 5.2 to 4.2.

Brett Ratten had seen enough of the Cotchin and Martin show as the second quarter commenced, moving Davies away from the dynamic duo and sending numbers down to clog up the Tiger forward line. On the ball, Marc Murphy and Brock McLean were winning plenty of footy while Andrew Carrazzo worked his magic from the back half. Jack Riewoldt was earning chances for the Tigers up forward but continued his goal kicking malaise, missing twice from gettable range. In a much tighter quarter of football, the Tigers finally broke the shackles when Shane Edwards caught Bryce Gibbs napping deep in the backline. Edwards soccered the ball through the goals from within Gibbs’ grasp for what Tiger players and supporters assumed was a cheap goal. After some confusion and an inconclusive video review, the call was inexplicably changed to a “touched” ball and the Tiger goal drought continued. Up popped Eddie Betts again to soccer a goal for Carlton and at half time the Blues led by 10 points.

With Riewoldt having an off-night, the Tigers needed to find some other goal kickers. Enter Tuck, Nahas and McGuane as Richmond took the lead. For the Blues, no need to change the game plan as they continued to find ways to get the ball to goal sneak Betts who obliged with his fourth goal before a clever knock on from Bret Thornton found the elusive Jeff Garlett for another Carlton goal at the 31 minute mark. At the three quarter time siren, it was Carlton with a 10.11 to 8.11 lead and another close loss staring the Tigers directly in the face.

Richmond came out running hard in the last quarter and it was again Tuck and Nahas who sparked the Tiger revival. Goals to both within the first 10 minutes saw the Tigers sneak to within a point of the Blues. Young forward Levi Casboult chimed in for a Carlton goal to regain the ascendancy before Tiger Captain Chris Newman returned the favor. 16 minutes into the final quarter and it was anyone’s game. Carlton castoff Shaun Grigg pumped a goal through under enormous pressure and the Tigers were back in business. When Trent Cotchin added another at the 21 minute mark to extend the Tiger lead to 13 points it appeared that Richmond may finally win a close one and stay in the Finals race. A couple of minutes later Dennis Armfield goaled from a Marc Murphy clearance for Carlton then a free kick to Thornton helped the Blues reduce the margin to a point.

With time running down Brandon Ellis had a chance to kick the sealer for Richmond but, as Tiger players have done all year, the youngster failed to compose himself under pressure, forcing another miss for a two point lead. Dustin Martin emerged from the boundary after having his tight hamstrings worked on for a lengthy period. He gained possession and banged the ball into an unattended Richmond forward line. In a test for his hamstrings, he had to chase his own ball 100 meters against two Carlton opponents before throwing himself onto a Carlton kick in a desperate act befitting a desperate team. Inside the last minute, Carlton went forward into the 50 meter arc where Richmond’s Steve Morris steamed out of defense to save the day. He beat the dangerous Betts to the ball before slamming the footy onto his left boot – only to see the ball sail out on the full for a Carlton free kick. As the Tigers tried to regroup with just seconds remaining, Brock McLean gained possession deep in the pocket and centered the ball for Casboult to mark. Jayden Post edged Casboult under the ball, his outstretched hand just missing the ball for it to harmlessly float over his head for what Tiger supporters expected to be a behind. In a spiteful twist of fate for the Tigers, the ball landed, took a right handed bounce and dribbled through for the goal that put a dagger through the Tigers’ heart. Carlton had won, and for the third time in as many weeks Richmond would lose a game by less than a goal.

Tiger players and fans could be forgiven for thinking a footy curse had been placed on them, but reality says that composure and goal kicking were more to blame for their demise. Richmond has played in eight games where the winning margin has been less than two goals – winning just two of the eight. Until Coach Damien Hardwick successfully addresses the goal kicking jitters and the poise under pressure, the Tigers cannot be considered a Top Eight rated team. For Carlton, their victory with a severely undermanned team restores some credibility they had lost in recent times, as well as giving them an outside chance of competing in the finals in 2012.

Brett Ratten’s Blues will face up against a rampaging Sydney Swans at Etihad Stadium in Round 19 while the hapless Tigers travel north for a clash with the struggling Brisbane Lions.

Carlton  4.2  7.5  10.11 14.11 (95)
Richmond 5.2  5.7  8.11  13.13 (91)

Best Players
Carlton:  Murphy, McLean, Betts, Garlett, Curnow
Richmond: Tuck, Cotchin, Deledio, Grigg, Martin 

Article last changed on Thursday, August 02, 2012 - 12:37 AM EDT

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