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This is what footy is all about. An Elimination Final between traditional rivals Carlton and Richmond on a beautiful sunny day in front of over 95,000 rabid footy fans. For the Tigers, it was about being back where they so desperately wanted to be after 12 years in the football wilderness. For Carlton, it was a chance - due to an unprecedented slice of luck when Essendon were stripped of their premiership points to vacate a spot in the Finals for the Blues - to restore lost faith under a new regime.

Carlton received a massive boost with the news that Chris Judd was fit and raring to go, while Chris Newman returned for the Tigers to play his first Final after toiling for over 230 games in the black and gold. The huge crowd was eerily quiet after an initial roar to greet the opening bounce. Richmond was first into attack with an Aaron Edwards miss the first score of the afternoon. Robert Warnock drew first blood for Carlton but the Tigers didn’t seem to be the bag of nerves that many had suggested coming into the game. Ten minutes in and Richmond were playing the better footy, Ty Vickery getting the first goal on the board for the MCG tenants. A couple of minutes later and it was bad news for Richmond as young left footer Reece Conca hobbled off with a bad hamstring injury. Enter veteran Shane Tuck, substituted into the game about three quarters earlier than he would have expected. Jarrad Waite received a bizarre free kick resulting in a goal for Carlton before Ricky Petterd returned the favor for Richmond. The Richmond midfield was looking good but countless forward forays were not converted into goals. Despite an 18 to 4 advantage in inside 50’s, a Cotchin late snap and goal gave the Tigers a slender nine point lead at quarter time. The scoreline should have been Richmond’s way by a lot more, but a dysfunctional forward line kept the game close.

Eddie Betts bobbed up for a Carlton goal early in the second term but a quick reply, once again from Vickery, held the Tigers lead steady. As Vlastuin, Cotchin and Martin took control the Tigers went on a rampage. Goals to Newman, Aaron Edwards and Tuck extended the Richmond lead to 25 points as Carlton searched for answers. Key forward Jarrad Waite provided just that as he goaled from a tough angle to keep the Blues in the contest, but Martin’s class shone through as he scored another goal for the Tigers. The teams traded goals as half time approached with Mitch Robinson and late inclusion Nick Duigan hitting the scoreboard for the Blues, while a late pressure goal from Tiger Captain Trent Cotchin extended the Richmond lead to 26 points at the half.

Despite the Tigers kicking the first goal of the third quarter, it was all the Blues in what is referred to as the “premiership” quarter. Chris Judd ran amok, Waite dominated and Duigan and Betts continued to give Richmond trouble. For the third time in as many contests in 2013, Carlton came back hard at the Tigers. As the lights came on at the MCG, goals rained down for the Blues. Waite and Garlett started the procession before Duigan and Scotland added two more. Richmond was seemingly losing every one on one contest in defense and could not gain control of the footy. Just 17 minutes in, and Eddie Betts goaled to reduce the Richmond lead to just one point. Champion Chris Judd had turned back the clock and was unstoppable for the Blues, while the Tigers, one man down, seemed to run out of gas. Brandon Ellis kicked a settling goal for Richmond before a couple of misses by the Tigers had the fans biting off what was left of their fingernails. Duigan once again put his hand up as he goaled just before three quarter time and a stunned crowd saw the three quarter time score show Richmond clinging to a flimsy four point lead. The Tigers would have to change the momentum if they were to hold off a rampaging Blues outfit.

A Garlett miss opened the final quarter scoring before an unbelievable brain fade from Robinson gifted the Tigers a goal. Robinson inexplicably fisted the ball through the Tiger goal as third man up in the ruck contest - an illegal move resulting in a free kick right in front to Richmond. That an AFL player did not know this rule was as amazing as the Carlton comeback had been in the previous quarter. Ivan Maric goaled and the Tigers breathed a bit easier with a nine point advantage. The breathing stopped just one minute later when Eddie Betts - a Tiger killer every time the two clubs meet - goaled for the Blues. Carlton players were constantly first to the ball and they hit the front from a Robinson mark and goal. A terrible “advantage” call after a Tiger free kick led to another Blues run, the result being that man Judd drilling another Carlton goal and gaining a heap of momentum. Richmond would not give in and a magnificent individual performance from an inspired Maric pegged back a goal for the Tigers. That was "all she wrote" however as Waite, and then Duigan, put the result beyond doubt, Carlton running out 20 point winners in an incredible match full of momentum shifts and controversy. Tiger fans stood stunned, gutted that their team had once again put itself in a winning position, only to be run over by a hungrier Blues squad led by a magnificent champion in Judd.

Richmond will rue missing the chance to put Carlton away after a dominant first half, and will be doing a lot of soul searching over the summer. Its first finals appearance in 12 years resulted in a gut wrenching loss for the players and the clubs 60,000 plus members. Carlton players on the other hand must feel like kids on Christmas morning, turning good fortune into an improbable Finals run that now sees them travel to Sydney to take on the Swans. On current form, they would be an almost even money chance to take the game and march towards a Preliminary Final, an even greater story for a club that three weeks ago was planning for 2014.

Richmond: 3.5 10.7 12.10 14.12 (96)
Carlton:  2.3 6.5  12.7  18.8 (116)

Best Players
Richmond: Deledio, Cotchin, Martin, Rance, Newman
Carlton:  Judd, Murphy, Curnow, Duigan, Betts, Waite, Gibbs

Article last changed on Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - 6:48 PM EDT

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