A beautiful Melbourne afternoon greeted fans of Collingwood and Richmond as they headed in droves towards the mecca of Australian sport, the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Under enormous pressure after three losses in a row and with a tough draw ahead, Richmond coach Damien Hardwick was in desperate need of a win to avoid another week of speculation about his tenure at the helm of the Tigers. The late withdrawal of small forward Shane Edwards, arguably the Tigers' best player of the season to date, was a cruel blow to Hardwick and Tiger fans prior to game time. Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley would have been feeling confident of victory with the Magpies holding a winning streak against the Tigers that went back as far as Round 19 in 2007.
That eight year winning streak looked to continue as the Magpies were by far the better team in the early going. Richmond, perhaps trying to mix things up to kick-start their ailing offense, started gun defender Alex Rance in the midfield while the job of minding Collingwood’s most powerful forward Travis Cloke was left in the hands of the inexperienced Todd Elton. The plan appeared to backfire early as Cloke kicked the first goal of the game for the Magpies after a strong mark in attack. Richmond players fumbled their way through the first term, getting caught with too many numbers forward as the Magpies scored on the rebound, with goals to Jordan DeGoey and Tim Broomhead. It took the Richmond team until the 25 minute mark to register its first goal of the game, and it if weren’t for an awful late miss by Collingwood’s Jesse White from 10 meters out, the Magpies 20 point quarter time lead could have been an even more daunting sight for the Tigers.
Richmond started the second quarter with Rance in his more familiar role down back and the Tigers all of a sudden seemed more like the team that won nine games in a row at the end of last season. Shaun Grigg scooped up a ball muscled forward by ruckman Ivan Maric and Richmond had the first goal of the second quarter within a minute of the restart. In a total transformation from the bumbling, sloppy team that wore the black and gold in the first quarter, the Tigers banged through five consecutive goals in the first nine minutes of the quarter to take control of a game it seemed completely out of just minutes before. Coach Buckley decided he had seen enough, manning up on the loose Tiger defender and playing his Richmond opponents one-on-one for the rest of the quarter. The Magpies responded with successive goals to White, Cloke and Jamie Elliott as the see-saw battle continued. Once again the Tigers responded with three late goals, two great finishes from spearhead Jack Riewoldt followed by one from the much-maligned Ty Vickery. At half time, Richmond led by two goals in a game that ebbed and flowed to incredible extremes.
In the second half, Collingwood lost defender Alan Toovey to a knee injury that would cause a reshuffle of the back line and the Tigers continued to take advantage. Grigg and Riewoldt goaled for Richmond to extend their lead to 24 points at the five minute mark with Trent Cotchin and Brandon Ellis instrumental in getting the ball forward for the Tigers. While Dane Swan was in everything for Collingwood, premier midfielder Scott Pendlebury was being denied his usual possession count by some great work from Grigg and Nick Vlastuin.
As had been the theme all day, the Magpies hit back. Goals to Swan, Cloke and two to Jack Crisp helped Collingwood regain the lead by a solitary point at three quarter time and, as the sun set and the MCG lights burst to life, the 50,000 plus crowd was making plenty of noise in anticipation of a stirring finish. Players threw their bodies in trying to give their team some breathing space and it was Collingwood who started better. After nailing some impressive goals early, Cloke missed a gettable goal to sneak the Magpie lead out to 3 points at the four minute mark. Richmond debutant Connor Menadue won a free kick for a high tackle to give himself the chance to kick a goal with his first kick in the AFL. Unfortunately for the Tigers, he hit it wide through the point posts to reduce the Collingwood lead to two points with plenty of time on the clock. Brett Deledio, so often the go-to guy for Richmond in the past but battling through an injury-riddled season, had been sent to full forward in an attempt to exploit the lack of pace in the Collingwood defense. The move paid off in spades when Deledio took a strong mark on the lead around 45 meters out from goal. He executed his kick to perfection to give Richmond the lead once again. Just two minutes later, in almost a carbon copy of his previous effort, he marked again before converting his second goal in a row to extend the Tiger lead to 15 points at the ten minute mark.
There was no time for the Tigers to celebrate as White marked and goaled from close range before a clever kick at the 18 minute mark gave Jarryd Blair the chance to once again take the lead for the Magpies. He made no mistake, and for the tenth time in the game the lead changed hands. Approaching the 22nd minute, a disputed ball was won on the wing and kicked towards second-gamer Corey Ellis for the Tigers. In a split second, he perfectly summed up the scenario as he was about to get tackled before being able to pick the ball up. Instead, he instinctively kicked it off the ground 35 meters towards a waiting Grigg, the ball eventually finding Vickery 30 meters out directly in front of goal. Vickery calmly went back as both sets of supporters gave him plenty of advice on how to kick, before slotting the goal to put Richmond back in front. A minute later Deledio drew three Collingwood tacklers but managed to free his arms and hit a target with a perfect hand pass, the result being a Riewoldt goal that gave the Tigers a bit of breathing space with around five minutes to play. Brandon Ellis hit the post before the Tigers slowed the tempo to deny Collingwood the ball. Jarrod Witts kicked a goal for the Magpies to get them back within five points but it was too late and the siren sounded.
In a wonderful contested game of AFL football, Richmond scraped home to earn a very important win against the odds. Captain Trent Cotchin was incredible for the Tigers, racking up 11 last quarter possessions and willing himself to every contest possible. Brett Deledio changed the game with his move forward in the final quarter, and there is no doubt that he is Richmond’s most important player when fit. For Collingwood, Dane Swan was fantastic and almost singlehandedly won the game for his Magpies.
Richmond now has a 3-4 record with some tough games to come, starting with a road trip to play Port Adelaide in Round 8. Last time Richmond traveled to Adelaide they were demolished by Port in the 2014 Elimination Final. Collingwood has a 4-3 record and will rue their missed opportunity for win number five, while looking forward to a match against the struggling Gold Coast Suns in Queensland next week.
Scoreboard: Richmond 1.2 9.5 12.6 16.9 (105) Collingwood 4.4 7.5 12.7 15.10 (100) Best Players: Richmond: Cotchin, Deledio, Riewoldt, Maric, Grigg, Rance Collingwood: Swan, Cloke, Adams, Crisp, Williams
Article last changed on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 - 4:33 PM EDT