Geelong went into the Round 7 clash with Richmond holding an imposing record. The Cats had beaten up the Tigers in the last ten clashes between the two combatants with an average winning margin of 65 points. To find the last Richmond victory against Geelong you have to flick the pages of AFL history book back to Round 9, 2006 - a sobering thought for a Richmond team already struggling to regain any of the solid form it displayed in 2013. Complacency would not be an issue for the Cats who tasted defeat for the first time this season at the hands of an impressive Port Adelaide in the previous round.
There was some good news for Tiger fans with the return of Vice-Captain Brett Deledio and "back line captain" Alex Rance while Geelong added to an already potent machine with the addition of the speedy Stephen Motlop, returning from a frustrating knee injury. Wet, windy conditions met the players as they took their positions in front of a disappointing crowd of around 34,000 fans, no doubt deterred by both the weather and Richmond's lack of form and energy thus far.
Richmond attacked first but could not penetrate a miserly Geelong defense and their first two minutes of forward play amounted to nothing on the scoreboard. Both teams were going in hard in the tough, slippery conditions with the Cats looking tidier with their delivery of the ball. Five minutes in, it was Geelong stalwart Jimmy Bartel marking 50 meters out and kicking the ball straight through for the first goal of the game. Heavy rain started to fall causing the footy to resemble a cake of soap as players struggled to hit targets consistently. At the 18 minute mark the individual brilliance of Travis Varcoe sent the Cats further ahead after a sensational pick up and goal from 30 meters out. Just a few minutes later a dubious free kick gave Hamish McIntosh his first goal and Geelong stretched the lead to 19 points. At quarter time Geelong led by 20 points, with both teams showing some strong physical play around the ground. Better ball use going forward by Geelong was the chief difference in the game so far.
Early in the second quarter Taylor Hunt goaled with an excellent snap out of the pack to put Geelong 26 points up, and a melee erupted around the contest*. The rain started to clear as Geelong continued to attack. A couple of missed chances by Geelong saw them edge further ahead, before a free kick and subsequent 50 meter penalty for high contact saw Motlop send the Cats back into attack. The sublimely skilled Steve Johnson ran onto the ball and kicked another one for the Cats, sending the lead to 34 points and Richmond Coach Damien Hardwick searching for answers. Things were once again looking ominous for the Tigers who finally registered their first goal twenty minutes into the second quarter. A great individual effort by Jack Riewoldt with a snap from the boundary finally gave Richmond fans something to cheer about. Within 90 seconds the returning Brett Deledio bombed a sensational goal from outside 50 meters and the Geelong lead was cut to 23 points. Unfortunately for the Tigers, Geelong pressed forward and a howler of a mistake in defense by young Matt McDonough gifted Jordan Murdoch a six point reply for Geelong. The tough slog in the rain had been replaced by some more attacking footy as the surface dried out, with Tiger rookie Sam Lloyd taking advantage with a ripping goal. What looked to be a one-sided affair was now a great contest, the Tigers finally taking some chances and playing attacking football. A Dustin Martin free kick and goal continued the charge until Mitch Duncan had the Cats purring with a fantastic snap out of the pack. Although Geelong held a 23 point lead at the half time break, Richmond now looked to be playing some of the best football of the game. Nick Vlastuin and Reece Conca had Richmond up and running while Harry Taylor dominated from the Geelong backline, continually quelling Richmond attacking moves with sure hands in the tough conditions.
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick activated substitute Shane Edwards at half time with immediate results. Edwards ran down Geelong’s Duncan to earn a holding the ball free kick, which he duly converted to get the Tigers back to within 17 points. The Cats knuckled down and it was Duncan at the other end extending the lead once again. Heavy rain hit once more and it was Tiger super-sub Edwards marking in the square just seconds after making a mess of a play-on attempt. He banged through the goal to once again keep the Geelong lead to three goals. Geelong attacked but a sensational spoil by Alex Rance was inexplicably ruled interference on Cat forward Tom Hawkins. The “Tomahawk” missed his attempt on goal before Lloyd bobbed up for Richmond again, snapping a great goal from 30 meters out. Richmond had the momentum and continued to attack. This time it was Cats' fans turn to be dismayed as what appeared to be a bouncing ball was paid a mark to a diving Ty Vickery of the Tigers. A very well delivered drop punt from 45 meters out went straight through to have Richmond within seven points at the 23 minute mark. That is how the score remained at three quarter time, a cracking contest with both teams desperate to win.
After being well held all day by a combination of Shaun Grigg and Daniel Jackson, Geelong’s captain Joel Selwood broke the shackles and kicked a magnificent goal to open the scoring in the final quarter. Not to be denied, it was Richmond skipper Trent Cotchin returning the favor for the Tigers and reducing the margin to six points. 14 minutes into the last quarter and the game was up for grabs. The Cats' Murdoch dispossessed Vlastuin in defense, spun around and kicked a beauty to extend the lead, and when Taylor Hunt repeated the dosage, the well drilled Cats looked to be home with a 19 point buffer. However the Tigers simply would not go away. Vickery answered by evading a tackle and kicking truly, but things turned sour for the Tigers when Chris Newman limped off with a nasty calf injury. Richmond worked hard but the Geelong defense stood tall, maintaining the lead with time running out. Riewoldt got the Tigers back to within 11 points but time was their enemy. A final foray into the forward line resulted in a Lloyd mark. He hurried back to take his kick, but as it sailed through the goals the siren sounded and the Tigers had fallen agonizingly short, going down to Geelong by just five points.
Geelong was simply better with the football in their hands and the difference in the end was probably an outstanding performance by Harry Taylor. His contested marking in the wet was nothing short of incredible. The return of Alex Rance and Brett Deledio gave the Tigers some much needed endeavor and skill, but despite a gutsy effort they let Geelong get too far ahead early. Not many teams can run the Cats down from a 35 point deficit, such is their discipline and ability to hold firm under attack.
Both teams head into a week off with the split rounds coming up. Richmond is now at 2-5 and a long way away from contending in Finals, but at least their attacking game seemed to reappear after lying dormant for most of 2014. Geelong coach Chris Scott will feel satisfied with the Cats' very impressive 6-1 start to the season heading into the week off.
* Editors note: Two players received sanctions from the Match Review Panel as a result of this incident. Brett Deledio (Richmond) and Mathew Stokes were found guilty of striking offenses and suspended for one week. Deledio took his case to the Tribunal where his charge was downgraded so he will be free to play in the next Richmond game.
Scoreboard Geelong 3.3 7.8 8.10 11.15 (81) Richmond 0.1 4.3 8.3 12.4 (76) Best Players Geelong: Taylor, Duncan, Enright, Bartel, Guthrie, Selwood, Murdoch Richmond: Rance, Hampson, Conca, Vlastuin, Astbury, Deledio, Jackson
Article last changed on Tuesday, May 06, 2014 - 7:00 PM EDT