Richmond players faced St Kilda at the MCG in the final game of Round 22, knowing their fate was well and truly in their own hands. Riding the wave of an incredible seven game winning streak that included on the road wins against the West Coast Eagles and Adelaide Crows, the Tigers had to beat the Saints to keep their slim Finals' chances alive. After Round 14, Richmond held a 3-10 win-loss record, placing them 16th on the AFL premiership ladder. Fast forward to Sunday, and as the Tigers ran out onto the hallowed turf of the MCG, a win would send them to 11-10 and into the Top Eight with one round to play.
St Kilda also had something to play for with retiring club legend Lenny Hayes donning the red, white and black Saints' colors for the final time in Melbourne. Saints' fans were hoping to send one of their favorite sons out in style with a win - just as they had done against the odds in Round 18 when they smashed the heavily favored Fremantle Dockers. Dustin Martin was a late withdrawal for the Tigers with a hamstring strain, and he was replaced by Reece Conca, returning after a two match suspension for rough conduct.
Two minutes into the first quarter and the in-form Shane Edwards sent a classy foot pass to Jack Riewoldt, who marked 40 meters from goal on a tough angle. Riewoldt made no mistake and the Tigers were on the board with the first goal. Ben Griffiths joined the action with a running checkside goal and Richmond was out to an early 12 point lead. The Saints were struggling to get their hands on the ball and when Brett Deledio took on Leigh Montagna with speed through the center, he kicked truly. Just five minutes in, Richmond held sway by three goals to zip. Defender Jake Batchelor kicked a rare goal at the 12 minute mark then it was Riewoldt again for the Tigers, kicking his second. The Tigers were on a rampage leading by 30 points then increasing their lead by another goal before St Kilda awoke from their apparent slumber and regained some control of the footy. Cameron Shenton and Sam Fisher put on late goals to the Saints but at quarter time a polished Richmond led by 22 points. Ex-Tiger captain Chris Newman led the way with 12 disposals while Jack Riewoldt - quiet in recent weeks - looked menacing up forward for the Tigers.
The second quarter was a much tighter affair with St Kilda working harder to win the contested ball. David Armitage had the first Saints' goal on the board within a minute, before a series of misses for both teams. At the eleven minute mark a sensational mark from Nick Riewoldt resulted in another Saints' goal - their fourth in a row - as the Tiger lead was reduced to just seven points. Looking to reclaim the limelight from his cousin, Jack Riewoldt struck for his third Tiger goal at the 15 minute mark, a much needed one for the Tigers, who had lost all of the early momentum to a hungry Saints' outfit. Riewoldt was having a sensational game and he was on the end of some nifty work from Gordon and Cotchin, marking 40 meters out on a tight angle. Jack had his kicking boots well and truly on as he snapped beautifully for his fourth goal of the afternoon. Despite being under solid pressure from the Saints during the second quarter, the Tigers held sway by 20 points at the half time break. Armitage and Riewoldt led the Saints turnaround, while Chaplain and Houli were continuing to provide solid drive off the half back line for the Tigers.
Richmond started the third quarter much like they had the first, taking the game on and giving their forwards every opportunity to score quickly. Deledio launched the Tigers' first of the quarter from 50 meters out, then Jack Riewoldt had his fifth goal on the board. The Tigers were once again in total control, winning the bulk of the clearances and denying St Kilda any space to use the football. A Foley mark and goal stretched the Richmond lead to 37 points before Griffiths marked and goaled again. It was all Tigers as Petterd added another to stretch the Tiger lead to a comfortable 44 points at three quarter time.
The final quarter saw a tenacious fight back by the Saints with the standout being the form of debutant Spencer White who finished with three goals. In what has been a very tough season for the Saints, the promise shown by White, plus the development of Jack Steven, Jack Billings and the young brigade will give all St Kilda fans something to look forward to next season and beyond. White kicked the first goal of the final quarter but it was Riewoldt notching his sixth for the Tigers that quelled any thoughts of a Saints' comeback. Despite never giving in, the Saints were simply no match for an in-form Tiger outfit who ran out comfortable winners by 26 points.
Richmond’s eighth consecutive win sees them inside the Top Eight for the first time in 2014 with one round to play. Their problem is that to stay there and earn a Finals appearance, they must beat League leaders the Sydney Swans in Round 23 away from home at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, a very tough assignment indeed. There are various permutations in regard to which team will snap up the final spot in the Eight - the most likely scenario being that the West Coast Eagles can snatch it with a win against the struggling Gold Coast and a Tiger loss. For Richmond, it is simple. Win and they are make Finals. As unlikely as that may be none of the pundits would have put the Tigers anywhere near this position nine weeks ago. Whatever happens, the final round of the regular season is going to be chock full of interest and a huge boon for the AFL, with larger crowds than normal the potential outcome of this "down to the wire" 2014 season.
Scoreboard Richmond 6.0 8.3 13.5 15.8 (98) St Kilda 2.2 4.7 5.9 10.12 (72) Best Players Richmond: Riewoldt, Miles, Houli, Deledio, Rance, Maric, Newman St Kilda: Armitage, Riewoldt, Dempster, Steven, Montagna
Article last changed on Wednesday, August 27, 2014 - 8:37 PM EDT