Brook “Boris” Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA
Richmond came into the Round 15 match against the Kangaroos aiming for a fifth successive win for the first time in 13 years. The Kangaroos were hell bent on turning around the frustrating form that had seen them lose six games by a margin of 16 points or less. For Brad Scott and his boys it was a must win game if North Melbourne were to stay in the hunt for a Finals berth. Missing from the Tiger line up was the injured Ivan Maric, while Kangaroo Lindsay Thomas had been given a self-imposed holiday for his mini head b*tt against the Giants in Round 14.
North Melbourne bounced out of the blocks in the early going, showing its intent to crowd the Tiger back line and score on the rebound. Robbie Tarrant had the first Kangaroo goal on the board at the ten minute mark and his team looked the most threatening when they had the ball. Brandon Ellis kicked the Tigers' first to keep the scores close, but goals were few and far between as the contest was being fought hard in close, with neither team being allowed the space to enter the forward 50 at pace. Two goals to Bastinac gave the Kangaroos a narrow seven point lead at the first break, with Daniel Jackson scoring the Tigers' second after North were caught napping from a center square infringement.
If the first quarter was somewhat of a scrap, then the second was the complete opposite. The Kangaroos executed their game plan to perfection while the Tigers played right into their hands by bombing the ball long inside their forward line. North had extra numbers behind the ball, clogging up the Tiger forward line and forcing them to find targets in short. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they played some very poor football and continued to launch the ball towards packs of North defenders who gleefully accepted the Tiger gifts before starting numerous counter attacks resulting in plenty of goals. In the space of 18 minutes the Kangaroos piled on eight unanswered goals including three from Robbie Tarrant in a complete smashing of a Richmond defense in disarray. At the other end of the ground, the Tigers had chances going forward but continued - inexplicably - to go long towards the swarm of North Melbourne defenders. For a team that had played some excellent disciplined football over the past month, the Tigers had reverted to “dumb” football, much to the disgust of their legion of fans. At half time the Kangaroos held a massive 53 point lead.
After half time coach Damien Hardwick’s men stemmed the avalanche of Kangaroo goals but the damage was done. Lachlan Hansen, Nathan Grima and Scott Thompson had enjoyed a field day in the Kangaroo back line, receiving numerous kicks from the Richmond forwards as if they were wearing black and gold guernseys instead of the vertical blue and white stripes of the Kangaroos. Apart from a workman like game from skipper Trent Cotchin, it was left to defender Steve Morris and substitute Matthew White to fly the flag for Richmond, White coming on after Brandon Ellis left the field early with concussion. Brent Harvey, an excellent Jack Ziebell and Levi Greenwood banged on goals for the Kangaroos while Mullett and Black added more to give North an insurmountable 59 point lead at three quarter time.
The final quarter was a bit of a let down as North protected a big lead. Jack Riewoldt finally found some space for Richmond to kick his only two goals in a disappointing game for him and his fellow forwards. The evergreen Boomer Harvey notched another goal in an impressive performance to finish things on a high while Cunnington, Gibson and Ziebell all joined the party as the rampaging Roos closed out an emphatic 62 point victory.
The stellar win gives North Melbourne a sniff of Finals yet again, their complete performance signalling they have the game plan to match it with any team on their day. For a disappointing Richmond outfit, doubters have the ammunition to question - once again - whether the Tigers have enough in the tank to make it to the Finals for the first time since 2001. Their lack of execution and thought in breaking down the Kangaroos’ defensive wall is a huge concern for Damien Hardwick. A bogey game in Cairns against the Gold Coast - one that Richmond is yet to win after their two previous attempts proved embarrassing - awaits the Tigers in what shapes to be the most important road game for the club in many years. Post a win and the Tigers remain in control of their destiny for a march towards a possible Finals appearance. A loss however would mean the jungle drums will beat louder than ever, which, combined with a tough run home, might be too much to hold off a Finals challenge from North Melbourne, West Coast or even the Gold Coast itself.
Scoreboard North Melbourne: 3.3 11.6 15.8 19.14 (128) Richmond: 2.2 2.7 4.15 8.18 (66) Best Players North Melbourne: Adams, Hansen, Greenwood, Thompson, Hine, Swallow, Ziebell Richmond: Morris, Cotchin, Foley
Article last changed on Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - 7:34 PM EDT