Brook “Boris” Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA from Australia
Round 22's “Clash of the Sash” was also shaping up as Essendon’s last chance to take a stand and show the football world they were worthy of playing Finals footy. For Richmond, it was once again about rebuilding a franchise and taking it back to the glory days of the 70s, when the Tigers and playing Finals were synonymous. The bookmakers had the Tigers as slight favorites due to Essendon’s recent poor form, which had culminated in an embarrassing thumping at the hands of arch-rival Carlton in Round 21. The Bomber faithful expected the sad passing of club legend Merv Neagle in a road accident during the week to provide the type of hard, uncompromising contest that Essendon Coach James Hird was demanding in his pre-game TV interview.
A shaky start from Essendon was punctuated by an uncharacteristic Jobe Watson clanger, as his kick across goal was intercepted by Shane Edwards. Edwards handballed wide to Brett Deledio, who calmly snapped the first goal of the game for the Tigers. Both teams missed opportunities until Essendon debutant Nick O’Brien joined the long list of players who have scored a goal in their first kick of the AFL Sherrin. The Tigers' attacking style was troubling the Essendon defense with slick handball through the midfield. At the seven minute mark it was Edwards who received a handball from Ivan Maric, before calmly slotting through the Tigers' second goal. A sensational smother from Tiger back man Steven Morris paved the way for a coast to coast run that ended with Jack Riewoldt kicking his first goal of the match. Leading by 16 points, the Tigers were having the better of general play despite Brownlow Medal fancy Trent Cotchin being well held by Heath Hocking. A goal line scramble after a Michael Hurley miss saw big man Scott Gumbleton with a classy finish to bring the Bombers closer, before Hurley hit his set shot through from 35 meters out to peg the Tiger lead back to just three points. At the 30 minute mark a juggling marking attempt from Luke McGuane stuck, and the ex-defender didn’t disappoint as he slotted goal number four for the Tigers. Bombers' coach James Hird would have been ropable when Richmond goal sneak Edwards pinched another goal in the last couple of seconds of the quarter to once again give the Tigers some breathing space. At quarter time it was 5.5 to 3.2 with Tuck, Edwards and Houli prominent for Richmond. The Tigers went forward on many occasions but were yet to find a forward structure to capitalize on their multiple entries inside 50 meters.
Essendon was first out of the blocks in quarter two as a goal line scramble resulted in an Angus Monfries goal which went straight between defender Alex Rance’s legs. The next five minutes produced an even affair with neither team able to capitalize on their attack inside 50. Cotchin missed before McGuane snapped a steadier for the Tigers at the eight minute mark. Inside a minute of the restart, Sean Grigg booted another for the Tigers who were rapidly gaining the ascendancy in the contest. Cotchin moved forward to escape the Hocking tag and was becoming a factor, although his radar was off target with consecutive misses on goal. Richmond continued to pepper the goals with Essendon putting extra numbers behind the ball to clog up the Tiger forward line. It was attack after attack from the Tigers but their method was to bomb it in long, resulting in miss after frustrating miss. When they did manage set shots from inside 40 meters, the Tiger forwards could still not convert. In ten minutes of sustained attacking where the Bombers were completely under siege, Richmond did not manage a goal until Riewoldt finally converted inside the last two minutes of the half. When the siren sounded, Richmond led 8.11 to 4.6 for a 29 point buffer that easily could have been more than 50 points with their total domination of a shell-shocked Essendon.
Essendon came out after half time desperate to stay in touch with the rampaging Tigers, and it was Leroy Jetta who won an early free kick and goaled to bring the margin back to 23 points. Trent Cotchin once again had the chance to goal, but missed for the third time before gaining a reprieve by marking the wayward Essendon kick in. Instead of having another shot, Cotchin passed to Dustin Martin who bombed a trademark goal from just on the 50 meter arc. Essendon was looking much better with their skipper Watson getting into the contest, and when Hocking fed Monfries for their sixth goal the game looked to still have some life. A tough 50 meter penalty against Watson’s opponent Daniel Jackson gave Alex Browne a shot on goal which he also converted and the Bombers had the margin in to a manageable 18 points. The next five minutes produced a couple more Tiger misses before Essendon blew their chance to creep closer with a wayward attempt that didn’t trouble the scorers. With Shane Tuck dominating possession and Cotchin continuing to have an influence it was only a matter of time before the Tigers kicked another goal, this time through a clever snap from Riewoldt. A series of misses from both teams continued the ugly forward theme of the night until David Astbury marked strongly for Richmond just 20 meters out. Astbury defied the run of misses and put the Tigers up by an even 30 points. Cotchin missed again before Riewoldt fed Nahas right on the siren for another major. At the final break it was Richmond 12.16 to Essendon 7.9.
The final quarter was a sloppy affair early with both teams turning the ball over in crucial situations. Cotchin once again had a shot on goal - and once again he missed, as did youngster Brett O’Hanlon in what was becoming a frustrating night for Essendon supporters and Tiger forwards. Monfries goaled from a sweetly hit long shot for the Bombers before Cotchin bobbed up again with his fifth attempt on goal - which he also missed. By this stage the Tigers had gone into their forward 50 meter arc on 63 occasions for just 12 goals, while Essendon had managed just eight goals from their 37 entries. Deledio was everywhere for the Tigers while Cotchin copped most of the Bomber attention, and it was O’Hanlon who finally broke the Tiger drought, booting one through the big sticks for Richmond’s 13th goal. There was time for a couple more misses for Richmond before the game fizzled out with the Tigers triumphant by 45 points.
Essendon, on the back of a thumping by Carlton, was totally outplayed by Richmond and fortunate not to go down by a much larger margin. After sitting second on the table after Round 10, the Bombers have plummeted out of Finals contention. They will finish their season against a Collingwood team who will be desperate to win and keep their Top Four hopes alive after a loss to West Coast last round. For Richmond, the game mirrored a great deal of their season. The Tigers played some great footy at times, dominated the inside 50 count but were very poor with their conversion. It will surely be a focus of Damien Hardwick and his assistant coaches in the off-season as Richmond strive to break their Finals drought in 2013.
Scoreboard Richmond: 5.5 8.11 12.16 13.24 (102) Essendon: 3.2 4.6 7.9 8.9 (57) Best Players Richmond: Tuck, Deledio, Riewoldt, Cotchin, Edwards Essendon: Heppell, Monfries, Hurley, Crameri
Article last changed on Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - 8:17 PM EDT