by Brook “Boris” Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA
Richmond found itself in unfamiliar territory on Friday night with a Round One win under their belt, plus the uncomfortable tag as “favorites” against a St Kilda team reeling from defeat at the hands of the Gold Coast Suns. The Tigers were looking to start the AFL season 2-0 for the first time since 1997 while the Saints had the perfect chance to silence the naysayers who were predicting a slide for the club which had featured in two of the last four Grand Finals.
With Ellis and Schneider named the subs for Richmond and St Kilda respectively, the game was set to showcase the talent of the Riewoldt cousins up forward for both teams, with young Jack looking to kick his first goal for the season after a solid game without reward for the Tigers in Round One.
After another bizarre pre-game coin “toss”, the game was underway with Jack Riewoldt notching up a behind for the first score of the game. St Kilda made the Richmond spearhead pay for his miss as Beau Maister - formerly known as Beau Wilkes - drilled a close range goal at the other end. Six minutes in it was Jack Riewoldt again in the action, this time taking a sensational mark before slotting through the Tiger’s first goal. St Kilda was getting the better of the center clearances with Clinton Jones cutting the usually prolific Trent Cotchin out of the game. Despite getting first use of the ball, the Saints were not able to go forward efficiently with Troy Chaplin, Alex Rance and Dylan Grimes repelling any Saint thrust forward. At the 14 minute mark it was Riewoldt again snapping a goal for Richmond before Luke McGuane added another. Dustin Martin was seemingly everywhere for the Tigers while McGuane was becoming a handful for a Saints' back line as they focused on stopping Riewoldt. McGuane marked strongly and goaled to give Richmond a 20 point lead with just under 10 minutes before the first break. The Saints worked hard to get a goal back through Rhys Stanley before the slick moving Ahmed Saad notched another. At quarter time, Richmond had a 10 point lead. Martin and Brett Deledio were prominent for Richmond while the Saints were spreading the workload amongst a host of players.
Coach Scott Watters moved Nick Riewoldt closer to goal to commence the second quarter with instant results. The big Saint notched his first goal within two minutes of the restart to bring St Kilda within four points of the Tigers. Reluctant to forfeit the lead, it was Reece Conca who soccered one through before Jack Riewoldt re-joined the party as the Tigers regained the momentum. When Jake King kicked a beautiful checkside goal the Tigers had increased their lead to a handy 20 points once again. Richmond was looking the classier of the two teams but the Saints dug in and refused to be blown away. Maister bobbed up for his second goal for the Saints then rangy ruckman Ben McEvoy converted to once again close the gap. Leigh Montagna and Lenny Hayes were getting into the game for the Saints and McEvoy was sensational in the ruck, clearly having the ascendancy over Richmond’s Ivan Maric. With time ticking down it was Jack Riewoldt showing he is just as dangerous with the ball on the ground as in the air as he scooped up the footy, spun and snapped his fourth goal. At half time, Richmond maintained a lead of 16 points.
Sam Gilbert hit the scoreboard first in the second half for the Saints as they desperately tried to gain the ascendancy from Richmond. Whatever St Kilda threw at the Tigers, they simply could not curb the influence of Jack Riewoldt, who slotted his 5th goal at the eight minute mark. After a stellar performance against Carlton in Round One, Ty Vickery was having a quiet one against the Saints - he did however chip in for another Richmond goal to extend the lead to 16 points. Every time the Tigers looked to break away, the Saints pegged them back - this time through the unusually quiet Steven Milne who snapped a trademark goal to get the Saints fans firing. Riewoldt notched number six from around 50 meters to steady the Tiger ship and it seemed their 22 point buffer was about the limit before St Kilda jumped back into gear on every occasion! The man to stand up was Tiger Jack's cousin Nick Riewoldt, who converted not one but two goals in the space of two minutes to bring the plucky Saints to within 11 points at the final break. Reece Conca was lively for Richmond while Nick Riewoldt looked to be the most likely Saint to feature in any upset win over the Tigers.
As the siren sounded to commence the final term, it was easy to sense the trepidation amongst the Tiger faithful. After being almost overrun by Carlton in Round One, was a slender 11 point lead enough for a traditionally shaky Richmond outfit when the game was on the line? Richmond fans were praying for the first goal, but it wasn’t to be. Ahmed Saad converted a sensational free kick from the boundary and the margin was down to just four points. Unlike the week before, Richmond dug in and went to a defensive plan that utilised the wings rather than going up the middle. Brandon Ellis was now on the field in place of Vickery in an attempt to provide more run for the Tigers. After a quiet first half, Trent Cotchin had broken his tag and was becoming more influential as the game wound down. An arm wrestle developed with neither side having a true shot on goal for ten minutes. Richmond steadied with some solid midfield work to set up Riewoldt once again, the big man not letting his team down as he threaded goal number six through the big sticks. From then on, Richmond played solid possession footy. Saad had another chance for the Saints but he hit the post, with the 11 point margin being as close as the Saints would get. With time ticking down, a brilliant piece of forward work from Conca ended with Ivan Maric kicking a goal in his 100th AFL game. Tiger players surrounded Maric, clearly delighted for a team mate who has become an important piece of the Tiger rebuild.
Although challenged once again, Richmond looked more composed in winning their second game on the trot. Jack Riewoldt was sensational for the Tigers, while Cotchin put his hand up to lead his charges in the trenches in a tough final term. The Saints still possess some talent but lack the depth of recent St Kilda teams. At 0-2, they are in danger of slipping out of finals contention in a hurry.
Scoreboard Richmond: 4.5 8.10 12.12 14.15 (99) St Kilda: 3.1 6.6 11.7 12.10 (82) Best Players Richmond: J Riewoldt, Cotchin, Morris, Conca St Kilda: McEvoy, N Riewoldt, Montagna, Saad
Article last changed on Thursday, April 11, 2013 - 1:21 AM EDT