Brook “Boris” Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA
Off field distractions haunted both teams in the lead-up to “Dreamtime at the G”, with Essendon players continuing to be interviewed by ASADA and Tiger Alex Rance in court to face his one time acquaintance turned stalker. There were further problems on the injury front for Richmond, with young Tiger Brandon Ellis pulling out with a hamstring injury incurred at training prior to the big match.
After the inspiring pre-game festivities, the Tiger’s indigenous representative Shane Edwards won the coin toss and the 84,000 plus crowd screamed as one to cheer their respective charges on. A few minutes in and it was the mercurial Richmond forward Jack Riewoldt nailing the first goal of the night for the Tigers. Essendon looked to have its first a few minutes later but the umpire goal review system was called upon after Richmond defender Jake Bachelor appeared to touch the ball before it sailed through. In a rare occurrence at AFL level this season, the review system overturned the goal umpire's call and the Bombers had to settle for their second behind of the evening. Daniel Jackson had the chance to put Richmond’s second goal on the board but hit the post before a strong mark from Essendon’s Winderlich resulted in a Bomber goal to tie the scores. In an unexpectedly subdued affair, no further goals were scored until the 15 minute mark when the prolific Jobe Watson snapped a beauty to put the Bombers up by six points. Richmond players were having difficulty finding their way up forward, but at the 23 minute mark Dustin Martin had a trademark burst through the pack and delivered to Luke McGuane for the Tiger’s second. At quarter time in a scrappy affair it was Essendon leading Richmond by a solitary point.
The Tigers came out firing in the second quarter with Jake King notching a goal, but once again the game was bogged down with neither team able to get its running game going. Goal sneak David Zaharakis looked to change all that as he kicked a beauty from 50 meters out and the Bombers seemed to grow in confidence. The sight of Brett Deledio having his ankle taped up was not a good one for Tiger fans, who would have felt even worse when Stuart Crameri kicked the Bombers fourth to give them an eight point lead. Richmond was trying to play a possession game but their skills were letting them down and they were giving the ball back to Essendon far too easily. Zaharakis kicked his second goal - once again from long range - and the Tigers were under the pump. At the 15 minute mark ex-Saint Brendon Goddard hit up Watson who finished well for the Bombers' fourth goal in a row and the Essendon lead stretched to 19 points. Joining Deledio with a sore ankle was Bomber defender Michael Hurley who landed awkwardly in a marking contest. Richmond continued to turn the ball over and the Bombers made them pay with Michael Hibberd banging home a long goal to increase the lead. A Crameri mark could have made things worse for Richmond but his shot on goal missed to let the Tigers off the hook. Dustin Martin was having an influence for Richmond but his missed attempt at goal had Tiger fans shaking their heads in frustration. With time ticking down in the half, a Riewoldt to Nahas pass gave the diminutive forward a chance to get one back for the Tigers and he didn’t let his team down. At half time, Essendon led Richmond by 20 points. Some solid defense from Troy Chaplin was all that kept the margin from being greater, with Essendon going inside the 50 meter arc 31 times to Richmond’s 17. Most of the other statistics were fairly even, with the big difference being the quality of disposal - the Tigers were found wanting when the pressure was on.
At the start of the third quarter substitute Jake Melksham replaced the injured Michael Hurley for Essendon, who jumped out of the box to score the first goal through the unstoppable Watson. If things had looked bad for the clumsy Tigers in the first half, they were now looking positively awful as Watson single-handedly dominated the Tiger midfield. The man himself fired a hand pass out of a pack of players to Melksham who goaled again for the Bombers, extending their lead to 32 points at the eight minute mark of the third quarter. Another bad mistake in defense by Richmond gave Crameri a shot on goal and he nailed it to extend the Essendon lead. Richmond fans could have been forgiven for thinking the clock had been turned back to 2009, with ugly errors riddling their performance all over the ground. It took the newest Tiger, Nick Vlastuin, to show the old brigade how to do it as he banged through a classy goal from outside 50 meters to keep the Tiger pulse pumping, albeit on life support. Richmond worked back into the contest but failed to convert on the scoreboard until the 25 minute mark when Deledio and Martin set up Riewoldt for his second goal. The margin was back to 29 points but Essendon refused to surrender the ascendancy. Watson was again involved, feeding Ben Howlett for the steadier coming into three quarter time. At the final break, Essendon led Richmond by 34 points.
Trent Cotchin bobbed up for his first goal of the year to kick off proceedings in the final quarter, but any thoughts of a Richmond comeback were snuffed out when Brett Stanton crumbed his own dropped mark to goal for the Bombers. A miss by both sides kept the game barely alive, and at the twelve minute mark Luke McGuane had the last roll of the dice for the Tigers with a shot on goal. His attempt hit the post (the third of the night for the Tigers) and with it went the chances of a late comeback. Shane Edwards did manage a goal for Richmond to bring them back within 21 points, but Martin hit the post once again to snuff out the rally. Crameri kicked the last goal of the game for Essendon as the Bombers cruised to a comfortable 29 point victory to keep them near the top of the AFL ladder. Richmond slipped out of the Top Eight after their disappointing display. Jobe Watson was the most influential player on the ground racking up 28 touches and kicking three goals for the 7-2 Bombers. Richmond let itself down with numerous turnovers which simply gifted goals to a team as talented as Essendon.
Essendon faces another big test against Sydney at the SCG next week while the Tigers lick their wounds before traveling west to face a rampaging Nic Natanui and his West Coast Eagles.
Scoreboard Richmond: 2.2 4.5 6.5 9.8 (62) Essendon: 2.3 7.7 11.9 13.13 (91) Best Players: Richmond: Rance, Grigg, Chaplin, Vlastuin, Newman, Jackson Essendon: Watson, Zaharakis, Stanton, Goddard, Hibberd, Hocking, Dempsey
Article last changed on Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - 9:41 AM EDT