In a Round 13 game played in two distinct halves of football, the Richmond Tigers pulled off a three goal victory over 2014 Grand Finalists the Sydney Swans in a down-to-the-wire thriller at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Even before the ball was bounced to start the first quarter, the Swans were showing signs they meant business with Lance (Buddy) Franklin and his opponent Alex Rance (re-signed last week by Richmond on a four year contract) pushing and shoving and throwing their weight around. It turned out to be a tight quarter of football although the skills were scrappy on the slippery surface. Jack Riewoldt opened the scoring with a goal for Richmond and ex-captain Chris Newman (back after being sidelined with injury) sent a long goal through the sticks but it was the Swans who were on top with Dan Hannebery, Luke Parker, Gary Rohan, Jarrad McVeigh and Adam Goodes controlling the play and kicking with precision. Parker, Rohan and Franklin all kicked goals and Sydney looked in control at quarter time even though their lead was a slim one goal.
It was more of the same in the second quarter with the Swans playing cool and confident football. Tom Derickx and Franklin kicked a goal each within the first two minutes and the Tigers slipped off the pace. Sydney was well on top in the tackle count as Richmond failed to get close enough to their opposition to impact on the play. Goals from Rohan and Josh Kennedy added insult to injury and the Swans went into half time with a 32 point lead. The only bleep on the radar was a report on star forward Franklin who ran past a ground ball and smacked recklessly into Tiger small forward Shane Edwards.
Richmond started the third quarter without Edwards who was forced to undergo concussion testing for the mandatory 20 minutes off the field. It was immediately apparent that the Tigers had come out to play with their leaders and particularly Trent Cotchin playing a more desperate and constructive brand of football. A second report against Sydney forward Kurt Tippett for rough conduct against a marking Dylan Grimes caused a stir as the football world went into overdrive imagined a depleted Swans’ outfit playing Port Adelaide in the Round 14 Thursday night clash.
Cotchin’s courage and endeavour soon paid dividends when he made something out of nothing in the goal square and kicked an amazing goal while lying on his back with two Swans tackling him. The Tigers continued to attack and when Ty Vickery took a courageous mark 40 meters from goal on a slight angle, he looked set to record another goal. Suddenly confusion reigned as the ball was taken from Vickery and the umpires awarded a free kick to Sydney for an interchange infringement*. The football ended up with Nick Smith who improbably kicked a shocker out of bounds on the full for no score. The Tigers regrouped quickly and attacked through the center corridor where Brett Deledio marked and goaled putting Richmond to within 20 points of the Swans. Vickery had another opportunity minutes later (although on a tougher angle) and he didn’t disappoint the Tiger faithful, slotting another goal through to put the Tigers within 14 points. Brandon Ellis joined the onslaught, kicking a long goal from a free kick against Ted Richards for contact below the knees and it was game on. Sydney settled and kept up the pressure with Tom Mitchell snapping a goal against the run of play. When Parker broke out of the center square and ran towards half forward to release a long bomb which sailed through the goal posts, it looked like the Swans had rallied and given themselves enough breathing space with a 19 point margin. But Richmond came again and two consecutive goals to their spearhead Riewoldt (after outstanding plays by his captain Cotchin and vice-captain Deledio) put scores level at 77 points apiece. The SCG was on fire and as the quarter wound down, Richmond kicked two more points to give them a narrow lead at the three-quarter time break.* Editor’s note: The AFL has admitted that this decision was wrong (http://www.afl.com.au/news/2015-06-29/afl-concedes-error-in-friday-night-infringement-penalty). Fortunately the mistake did not impact on the game although the concern is always that such a mistake could cost a team in a Grand Final and there would be little recourse.
A stunning final quarter was set up and it did not disappoint. Richmond scored the first goal as some Rance brilliance saw Franklin beaten in a one-on-one contest and Riewoldt with the ball to kick his fifth for the game. Sydney were resolute and continued to force the ball into their forward zone but Nick Vlastuin, Dylan Grimes and Troy Chaplin were holding their own in defense as Rance continued to dominate the dangerous Franklin. Finally Harry Cunningham marked the ball for Sydney on the 50 meter line but his shot was offline and it was an even goal the difference. Minutes later a long kick came in deep to Tippett who took a good mark and kicked the equalizer. It was all square and the tie was a possibility. The game breaker occurred when Grimes took a saving mark in defense for the Tigers and passed to midfielder Anthony Miles who had worked hard all game. He was awarded a free kick and then a 50 meter penalty when the sub Zak Jones was penalized for demonstrative abuse against the umpire. Miles shot a clever short pass to his leading full forward Riewoldt who kicked his sixth goal in a "best on ground" performance. Cotchin kicked a long ball forward and an awkward bounce stymied the Swans’ defenders as Ivan Maric ran on to the ball and kicked it soccer-like through the goals. It was the Tigers by 12 points with only minutes to go. A goal in the last 15 seconds by the gritty Miles was the icing on the cake and the Tigers were victors, having staged one of the comebacks of the season and turning a 32 point half time deficit into an 18 point win.
Sydney will be without tall forwards Franklin and Tippett for their Thursday night Round 14 clash with Port Adelaide at the SCG after the Match Review Panel suspended each for one week. The game is an important one for the Swans, who lost a golden opportunity to take second position on the AFL Ladder and maintain a one game advantage over West Coast. Richmond moved into sixth position on the Ladder and will take on GWS at the MCG in Round 14. It will be interesting to see whether they have turned the corner and rediscovered the momentum they carried into the bye or whether the lackluster form of the second quarter will show itself again. Whatever happens the season is shaping up as one of the more even contests in the past few years and fans are the ones who are benefiting from the unpredictability of the match ups.
Scoreboard Sydney: 3.4 (22) 8.7 (55) 10.8 (68) 11.11 (77) Richmond: 2.4 (16) 3.5 (23) 10.10 (70) 14.11 (95) Best Players Sydney: Hannebery, Parker, Kennedy, Rohan Richmond: Riewoldt, Cotchin, Miles, Rance, Maric
Article last changed on Monday, June 29, 2015 - 11:33 AM EDT