Just days after one of Australia’s largest online betting sites paid out on Hawthorn winning the 2015 Premiership - more than two months before the Grand Final is to be played - the raging favorites have been upset by Richmond in front of a massive MCG crowd.
Having to win to keep their top four chances alive, a disciplined Richmond stifled the Hawks' usual free flowing style, forcing them into uncharacteristic mistakes and beating them at their own high possession style of play. The Tigers dominated the first quarter with Brett Deledio running rampant up forward, kicking three goals - including one directly from a Luke Hodge mistake - as Richmond kept Hawthorn goalless. At the first break the Tigers held a 19 point lead, with Deledio and Dustin Martin giving Hawks' coach Alastair Clarkson plenty to think about.
Richmond continued their incredible defensive pressure early in the second quarter and extended their lead with Jack Riewoldt’s first goal of the night. Six minutes in and the Hawks had their first goal through Ryan Schoenmakers, with Jack Gunston repeating the dosage just a couple of minutes later. The Hawthorn everybody had expected to see started to turn it on as they wrested control of the match back in their favor. After failing to register a goal early the Hawks piled on four in a row before the Tigers could find an answer. A sensational snap from Kamdyn McIntosh put Richmond back in front but a late Cyril Rioli reply had the Hawks back in the lead once again. At half time, Hawthorn had settled to lead by two points. After smashing premiership hopefuls Fremantle and Sydney in previous weeks, most expected the Hawks to have little trouble closing the game out in the second half. The Tigers had other ideas.
More fierce contested footy was on display early in the third with neither team being able to goal, until an undisciplined push from veteran Hawk Brian Lake gave Ty Vickery a free kick hard on the boundary from 50 meters out. Vickery went back and delivered a perfect kick around his body to bend the ball right through the goals and give his Tigers back the lead. The Richmond defense continued to work hard to stifle the Hawks in attack, incredibly keeping the League’s highest scoring team goalless once again for the entire quarter. Bachar Houli, the whipping boy after his kicking error handed Fremantle a last minute win against Houli’s Tigers just a week ago, marked and coolly goaled to stretch the Tiger lead. In the shadows of three quarter time, a Taylor Hunt intercept led to a handball to Kane Lambert who streaked into goal to extend the Richmond lead to 18 points with a quarter to play.
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick had his players in a tight circle at the final break, imploring them to finish the game off with more relentless pressure and defense, while his opposite number in Clarkson was desperate to find a way to break down the Richmond defense and restore the Hawks free-flowing ways.
Richmond held firm early with Captain Trent Cotchin and midfielder Anthony Miles seemingly in every contest around the ground. As hard as they tried, the Hawks could not escape the Tiger press, and Deledio once again pushed the Richmond claims for an upset win when he kicked his fourth goal of the game, giving the Tigers a 25 point lead. The Hawks refused to go quietly and a Gunston goal from a free kick reduced the margin to 19 points with ten minutes to play. Paul Puopolo was taken high in a tackle close to goal and Tiger fans started to get nervous as the Hawks were back within 12 points. Just a minute later, Richmond substitute Sam Lloyd who had just joined the game, received a handball 45 meters out on an acute angle and, under a pile of pressure, managed a team-lifting goal as Tiger fans screamed in delight. A Rioli miss left the result in no doubt as Richmond controlled the ball to run out 18 point winners in one of the biggest upsets of the season.
The wash up is that Hawthorn has severely damaged its chances of a top two finish, while Richmond keep their top four hopes alive despite a tough run home. One thing is certain - no more betting sites will be paying out on a Hawthorn Premiership this week.
Hawthorn won’t have to wait long to re-stake their top two claims as they face the second placed West Coast Eagles in Round 19 in Perth. The Tigers travel to Adelaide to take on the Adelaide Crows, who will be fighting desperately to reclaim a place in the top eight.The season is finishing in thrilling fashion with one of the most tightly-contested contests for the Finals in years.
Scoreboard Hawthorn 0.3 5.6 5.8 7.11 (53) Richmond 3.4 5.4 8.8 10.11 (71) Best Players Hawthorn: Lewis, Mitchell, Birchall, Hodge, Burgoyne Richmond: Miles, Deledio, Martin, Maric, Ellis, Cotchin
Article last changed on Monday, August 03, 2015 - 1:52 PM EDT