The Round Three clash between Richmond and the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium was expected by most to be one-way traffic with the Tigers having won the last three encounters by an average margin of 66 points. Despite their recent domination, the enthusiasm of the Tigers was dampened somewhat by the news that stellar midfielder Brett Deledio would miss his first game in over five seasons, an incredible record in modern Australian Rules Football. An Achilles injury suffered in the Tigers' tight win over Carlton was the culprit. Shaun Hampson would also miss for Richmond, meaning third string ruckman Orren Stephenson would be required to take the bulk of the ruck duties against the Bulldogs' Will Minson, one of the best ruckmen in the business. The Western Bulldogs went into the clash unchanged from the team that showed plenty of spirit against North Melbourne in Round Two, before being run over in the final quarter by a fast finishing Kangaroo outfit.
Richmond notched the first goal of the afternoon through Captain Trent Cotchin, but the rest of the first quarter was dominated by a hungry Western Bulldogs outfit. The Tigers failed to stem the run of the Bulldogs' midfield as the underdogs registered four unanswered goals. A dysfunctional Tiger back line was allowing the Bulldogs to stream forward of the ball, waltzing into an unguarded goal on numerous occasions and putting a scare into the Richmond camp. Liam Jones was the main destroyer for the Bulldogs, while Dustin Martin bagged a late consolation goal for Richmond after a Bulldog defensive error. At quarter time it was all Bulldogs as they led by three goals.
If the first quarter was concerning for Richmond supporters, the second was positively frightening. The Bulldog midfield was led by a rampant Jackson Macrae and Matthew Boyd who were running rings around a hapless Tiger outfit which bore no resemblance to a team that was touted pre-season as a possible Top Four contender. Playing one-on-one accountable football, the Bulldogs pressured Richmond into numerous errors, capitalizing with a four goal to one second quarter. At half time, nonplussed Richmond fans were seeing the promise of a strong year erode before their eyes as the Bulldogs took a 37 point lead into the half time break.
Richmond finally started to fight in the third quarter, as Jack Riewoldt - very quiet in the first half - started to have some influence on the contest. After Ty Vickery and newcomer Nathan Gordon kicked goals for the Tigers, Riewoldt came alive scoring a couple of his own. Finally Richmond was competing for the contested ball but the Bulldogs would not be denied, the outstanding Macrae keeping the scoreboard rolling for the boys from the western suburbs. At three quarter time the Tigers were back in it, trailing by only 15 points.
It was Riewoldt again for the Tigers drawing first blood in the final quarter as the Tiger army started to find its voice. If the Riewoldt goal had fans firing, a Daniel Jackson goal had them positively rabid as their boys edged to within a few points of the Bulldogs. To their credit the young Western Bulldog brigade fought back, scoring the next two goals in a five minute burst with "super sub" Daniel Giansiracusa providing some spark off the bench. With the Bulldogs lead back to 16 points, the Tigers mounted another challenge. Goals to Vickery and a long bomb from Ben Griffiths reduced the lead to just three points at the 20 minute mark. Former Bomber Stuart Crameri stretched the margin again for the Bulldogs but Shaun Grigg returned the favor with a goal of his own. When Riewoldt bobbed up with a mark and goal at the 26 minute mark, it looked like the Tigers were going to pull off a miraculous escape, taking the lead by three points. The Bulldogs had not read the same script and went forward to the crafty Giansiracusa who milked a late free kick by not taking possession of a long bouncing ball. He converted the pressure kick and the Bulldogs had pulled off a well-earned, blue collar victory over the more fancied Tigers.
While this game answered a few questions about where the Bulldogs are at, it raised plenty of questions about the state of the Richmond Football Club. Touted as Finals contenders, they have now dropped games to the Gold Coast Suns and the Western Bulldogs – both games they would have expected to win. With a blockbuster against Collingwood at the MCG coming up in Round 4, the Tigers will need to turn their form around in a hurry if they are to reach expectations for 2014. The Bulldogs will head into their Round Four clash with the Greater Western Sydney Giants, full of confidence after such a gutsy win.
Scoreboard Western Bulldogs: 5.4 9.5 11.9 15.10 (100) Richmond: 2.4 3.4 9.6 15.8 (98) Best Players Western Bulldogs: Boyd, Macrae, Murphy, Morris, Liberatore Richmond: Cotchin, Jackson, Conca, Ellis
Article last changed on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 - 4:26 PM EDT