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Brook Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA from Australia

Richmond and Carlton met in a Thursday night clash of considerable significance despite the AFL season being just one round old. Last year the Tigers narrowly defeated the Blues in Round One, only to give up a big lead in the Elimination Final against the Blues in a crushing defeat for Richmond and its army of loyal fans. With both Carlton and Richmond suffering first round defeats, the Round Two meeting was a “must win” for both clubs with Finals aspirations taking a big hit for the loser.

Both teams had important players missing for the clash, with key Richmond defender Alex Rance and versatile Carlton forward Andrew Walker out due to a one week suspension. The Blues were further hampered with key ruckman Matthew Kreuzer a late withdrawal due to injury. The bookmakers had Richmond as slight favorites despite Carlton having won 11 of the past 12 encounters between the two teams.

Richmond started in sensational fashion with Shane Edwards kicking the first goal for the Tigers. The midfield of Cotchin, Thomas and Martin looked too slick for the Blues early in the game with Brandon Ellis chipping in for a sensational long goal to put the Tigers two goals up. Martin repeated the dosage before a set shot from Cotchin had the crowd roaring as Richmond raced to a 25 point lead just seven minutes in. Tom Bell pegged one back with a nice snap for the Blues but the Tigers continued to attack, Ty Vickery producing a well-executed check side punt kick to stretch the margin once again. Carlton produced a late goal through Kade Simpson after Tiger ruckman Ben Griffiths dropped a simple mark at half back. At quarter time, Richmond led 6.3 (39) to 2.4 (16). Ellis was a standout for Richmond, restricting Carlton playmaker Bryce Gibbs to just two disposals, while Brett Deledio and Nick Vlastuin also starred for the Tigers. Marc Murphy and Simpson were the best for the Blues in the first quarter.

Ellis continued his form in the second quarter, kicking a miraculous goal from the 50 meter arc right on the boundary. Carlton seemed powerless to stop the Tiger onslaught as Griffiths marked and goaled form 40 meters out, stretching the Tiger lead to 35 points. An off-the-ball incident led to Tiger star Dustin Martin going on report, salt being added to the wound as Jarrad Waite goaled for the Blues with a tidy snap around his body. Despite starting to break even in possession, Carlton could not make further inroads into the Tiger lead as Jack Riewoldt bobbed up with a great mark and goal. Chris Yarran looked to be the potential Blues' savior as he added two clever goals around Vickery’s second for Richmond but at the half it was a solid 31 point lead to the Tigers.

Richmond’s superior ball use stood out in the first half with Cotchin, Martin and Ellis the main architects and Reece Conca and Shane Edwards providing support. For the Blues, Marc Murphy was the standout with Yarran looking the most likely to get the scoreboard ticking over and reducing the Tiger lead. Despite holding a comfortable lead, Tiger fans were staying low key - the memory of last season’s Elimination Final comeback by the Blues still painfully fresh in their minds.

Andrejs Everitt, doing a solid job running with Tiger gun Brett Deledio, moved forward to mark and goal for the first score of the second half as the Blues fought to stay in the game. Jake King shrugged a tackle and goaled to steady the ship for the Tigers just two minutes later but the Blues refused to go quietly. Yarran was proving to be a major thorn in the side of the Tiger defense and booted his third goal as Carlton crept closer. Try as they might, the Blues could not kick consecutive goals as Vickery converted his third goal in a strong performance up forward. Jeff Garlett produced some magic to once again peg the margin back, and when Everett kicked his second at the 16 minute mark, the 22 point margin had Tiger fans once again biting their fingernails. The last five minutes of the term it was all Carlton as they sent ball after ball into the forward 50 zone. Richmond barely had a pulse as the Blues took numerous shots on goal. Unfortunately for the Blues, they let themselves down badly when taking their shots. Waite, Jamieson and Gibbs all faltered in their attempts and at three quarter time the Tigers still held sway by 23 points.

Despite dominating the Tigers for a large slice of the third quarter the Blues didn’t have much to show for it. Yarran was outstanding, Everett looked the goods and Murphy continued to win contested possessions for the Blues. Ex-Collingwood gun Dale Thomas was also having an influence, while for the Tigers it was Vickery up forward keeping them afloat. One thing was certain - this game was far from over as Tiger fans shifted nervously in their seats. Would Carlton make it 12 from 13 against their beloved Tigers or could Richmond hold on for a morale boosting win?

In the first two minutes of the final quarter Garlett had the chance to put a massive scare into the Tigers but missed yet another shot on goal. Three minutes later it was David Ellard’s turn to miss once again for Carlton. However Troy Menzel made no mistake and the Richmond lead was whittled to 15 points at the eight minute mark. A poor marking effort by Richmond’s Steve Morris gave Yarran a chance to goal but another miss reduced the margin to 14. By now Carlton were swarming as the Tigers slowed to a halt. Waite had a set shot but missed everything before Ellard did the same. Garlett had the best chance of all to goal for Carlton but inexplicably tried to dribble the ball from his foot rather than kicking through it - resulting in a miss from less than 10 meters out! After a bevy of easy misses, Bryce Gibbs threw caution to the wind and decided to have a pot shot from the boundary line. The ball sailed through and Carlton fans went into a frenzy.

With the margin down to seven points and plenty of time left, it looked like the Blues would once again break the collective heart of Richmond fans. At the 17 minute mark, Menzel goaled again and the margin was only one point. Waite marked just 35 meters out but missed as Tiger coach Damien Hardwick ran from the coach’s box to ground level to implore his players to hold fast. Scores were level at the 19 minute mark and the Blues were doing all of the attacking. Finally the Tigers went forward and after a scramble in the forward line, Martin squeezed a point to put the Tigers in front by the narrowest of margins. With five minutes to go Richmond seemed to finally be finding the footy with another behind registered by Riewoldt. 25 minutes in with the game on the line, Vickery managed a scrappy goal and incredibly the tide had turned once again. Waite missed yet another shot for Carlton and with a "rushed behind" (a ball which is forced through the goalposts without making contact with the attacking team's boot), it was an even six point lead for the Tigers. A draw now loomed as a distinct possibility. As Carlton pounded the ball deep into the forward line it was Ben Griffiths who stood tall with a saving defensive mark for Richmond. The Tigers broke forward and Dustin Martin pushed hard and goaled for the sealer. The Tigers were home.

Poor kicking for goal certainly cost Carlton dearly at crunch time but the Tigers showed plenty of fight by wrenching the momentum back late in the game to claim a heart-stopping victory. Carlton coach Mick Malthouse will have no time to ponder what might have been as his self-proclaimed potential premiers have to face fierce rivals Essendon at the MCG in Round Three. The Bombers came very close to defeating 2013 Premiers Hawthorn in their Friday night game and will be feeling vengeful after their ferocious performance ended in a loss. Richmond will meet the Western Bulldogs in Round Three and will no doubt be keen to work on the parts of their game plan which allowed Carlton to almost pinch the win.

Richmond: 6.3  10.6  12.12 14.14 (98)
Carlton:  2.4   5.5   9.7  12.14 (86)

Best Players
Richmond: Cotchin, Ellis, Martin, Vickery, M Thomas
Carlton: Yarran, Simpson, Murphy, Buckley, D Thomas

Article last changed on Thursday, April 03, 2014 - 7:48 PM EDT

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