Premiership favorites the Sydney Swans were on the back of an eight game winning streak when they faced a Richmond team fighting for respect during a nightmare season that has seen them slump to a 3-9 record. The Tigers' struggles were reflected in a poor MCG crowd of just under 35,000 fans, many of them supporting the juggernaut Swans and their ten million dollar recruit, Lance “Buddy” Franklin. For Sydney it was a chance to shine on the MCG, a venue the Swans must be hoping to grace later in 2014 for the biggest day on the Australian sporting calendar, the AFL Grand Final.
The game started in drizzling rain, with the Tigers handling the slippery conditions better than the visiting Swans. Richmond spearhead Jack Riewoldt had the first goal on the board after four minutes of play, with the Tiger forwards receiving good service from Captain Trent Cotchin and a rampant Dustin Martin. Aaron Edwards held a strong contested mark just 20 meters out and converted the Tigers second. Richmond was playing possession football, trying to deny the Swans the ball at every opportunity and, despite the conditions, the Tigers were having solid success. With Alex Rance blanketing Lance Franklin, it was Sam Reid who registered the first goal for the Swans with almost twenty minutes of the quarter elapsed. Just a couple of minutes later a Steve Morris pass hit Shaun Hampson up forward and the big man converted his first goal in Tiger colors as Richmond stretched the lead to 12 points. In the shadows of quarter time, Richmond Rookie Anthony Miles crumbed a Riewoldt attempt on goal and snapped a wonderful six-pointer to give the Tigers an unlikely 18 point lead.
The second term was a tight contest until Franklin broke away from Rance to goal from 45 meters out almost ten minutes into the quarter. The Tigers still had the better of general play with their high possession game style, while the Swans continued to kick longer, trying to pressure the Tiger backs. A Lewis Jetta mistake in defense led to another Riewoldt goal and the Tigers once again enjoyed a 20 point lead, before Brett Deledio scooted away from his Sydney pursuers to bang through another Richmond goal. Just when Tiger fans thought there was the sniff of an upset in the air, the Swans came alive. A solid mark and goal by Franklin was followed by a Tiger error as Matt Dea dropped a mark deep in defense, allowing Kieran Jack to kick another quick goal for the Swans. At half time Richmond led by 14 points, a margin that should have been much greater given their dominance in possession and winning the contested ball. Ellis, Cotchin and Miles had all been impressive for Richmond while Franklin - beaten for most of the half by Rance - was keeping the Swans close enough to pounce.
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick would have been nervous at half time given his team’s recent fade out against North Melbourne, and he wouldn’t have felt any better when Jack booted the first goal of the second half for the Swans. Whatever Sydney coach John Longmire said to the Swans at half time they came out firing, dominating proceedings as Sam Reid notched another goal. The Tigers missed a couple of chances to regain the ascendancy but the Swans were ruthless, completely taking control of the game throughout the third quarter. At one stage the Sydney-siders had 15 inside 50’s without the Tigers entering their own 50 meter arc. Despite the territorial domination the Richmond defense, well-led by Rance, stood up remarkably well and when rookie Miles kicked truly as the three quarter time siren sounded, the Tigers regained a one point lead.
The final quarter resembled a rugby union match as numbers around the football created multiple stoppages. Dustin Martin missed a chance to put the Tigers further ahead before another defensive error gave Franklin his third goal and the Swans the lead. Martin was in the thick of it once again, delivering an excellent pass to Riewoldt. Unfortunately for Tiger fans, Riewoldt missed the shot and the Swans maintained their slender lead. In a tight game where either team could have taken home the points, it was poise in front of goal that decided the result. A wrestle up forward saw a free kick awarded to Franklin who, in spite of having a relatively quiet game by his lofty standards, converted his fourth goal and gave the Swans an important nine point lead. A couple more points saw Sydney run out 11 point winners in a game that turned out to be a lot closer than most experts had predicted. Richmond certainly had the endeavor and effort but the class of Sydney in front of goal proved the difference.
Sydney will go for ten straight wins when they face the Greater Western Sydney Giants at the SCG in Round 15, while a battered Richmond will try and give their fans something to smile about when they take on bottom-placed St Kilda at Etihad Stadium.
Scoreboard Richmond 4.2 6.4 7.6 7.9 (51) Sydney 1.2 4.2 7.5 9.8 (62) Best Players Richmond: Martin, Ellis, Cotchin, Houli, Miles, Maric Sydney Swans: Franklin, Kennedy, Cunningham, Parker, Jetta, Malceski
Article last changed on Monday, June 23, 2014 - 8:45 AM EDT