Brook “Boris” Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA
Taking a leaf right out of the NFL playbook, the AFL decided to run its own version of Monday Night Football in Western Australia for the Round 10 clash between the West Coast Eagles and Richmond. While Hank Williams Jr. was nowhere to be seen, plenty of spectators had taken up the offer of footy on a public holiday as Patersons Stadium was packed to the rafters for this all-important clash. The Eagles' season had been gaining momentum after four wins on the trot coinciding with the return of excitement machine Nic Naitanui, while Richmond headed west looking for credibility after being trounced by a rampaging Essendon in Round 9.
As the game commenced to the roar of the home crowd, Naitanui jumped high over Tiger ruckman Ivan Maric to give first touch of the ball to the Eagles. This would be a theme repeated throughout the night as West Coast's talented duo of Naitanui and Cox would have complete domination in the hit outs. Both teams missed targets early until West Coast spearhead Josh Kennedy marked cleanly for his first shot on goal. There was no mistake as he sent the ball right through the middle and the Eagles jumped out to a six point lead at the six minute mark of the quarter. The home team had the better of the early going with Richmond continually turning the ball over when in possession. A seven to two inside 50 meter count was a fair indication of the early Eagle domination. A couple of wasted chances by West Coast went begging before Matthew White launched the Tiger’s first goal at the 14 minute mark. Kennedy goaled again for West Coast before Shane Edwards sharked the pack for the Tigers to restore parity on the scoreboard. After a terrible error close to his own goal, Tiger Bachar Houli gifted Daniel Kerr the final goal of the quarter for the Eagles. At quarter time the Eagles held a six point lead and should doubtless have been further ahead with their domination of possession. The Richmond defense had worked hard to keep the level of damage down as the home team repeatedly went forward.
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick seemed resigned to losing the ruck contests and planned a clearance attack based on close checking and tackling of the Eagles' midfielders around the ruck contests. This proved to be a masterstroke as Richmond won the lion’s share of the second quarter clearances despite being smashed in the hit outs. The second quarter was a complete contrast to the first with the Tiger midfield finding targets and pushing hard to make space. Shane Edwards took Richmond’s first mark inside the 50 meter arc at the five minute mark of the second quarter and goaled to bring the Tigers to within one point of the Eagles. The floodgates then opened as a stunned home crowd saw young Tiger Nick Vlastuin - in his first season of AFL football - show his complete bag of tricks in a 20 minute onslaught from the Richmond midfield. Goals to Vlastuin, Jake King, Vlastuin again, and two to ex-skipper Chris Newman without a reply from the Eagles had the Tigers heading into the half time break with a handy 28 point lead. Brett Deledio, Trent Cotchin, Dustin Martin and the youngster Vlastuin were running amok at Patersons while the Eagles failed to make an impact up forward, Mark LeCras seeming almost invisible as Steve Morris wore him like a glove.
In the all important third quarter the Tigers continued to work hard, knowing an early Eagle strike would get the home crowd firing and momentum switching to the boys in Blue and Gold. Ty Vickery soon put paid to that with a mark and goal to extend the Richmond lead before Ivan Maric hand balled to Dustin Martin for another Richmond six-pointer. The crowd had been completely taken out of the game as the inevitable comeback from the home team was nowhere to be seen. At the 12 minute mark Jack Darling bobbed up for the first West Coast goal since the first quarter, giving the West Coast faithful something to cheer about. Josh Hill goaled again for the Eagles just two minutes later and Tiger fans moved uneasily in their seats, their team having previously struggled to close out games when in a winning position. Both teams were now playing a man down with the Eagles' Mitch Brown and the Tigers' Shane Edwards both being subbed out with remarkably similar “poke in the eye” injuries. Despite the Eagles' mini comeback, Richmond players appeared more desperate as the Eagles made uncharacteristic handling errors when under constant Tiger pressure. Alex Rance, Troy Chaplin and Steve Morris for Richmond were doing a masterful job on Kennedy, Darling and LeCras, not allowing them any easy ball while working tirelessly to tackle and harass when the Eagle forwards had possession. Vickery kicked his second goal of the quarter before the Tigers played possession football to slow the tempo and deny the Eagles the chance to score quickly. As the quarter wound down, a third goal to rookie Vlastuin and a circus goal to Daniel Jackson that somehow avoided all West Coast hands had Richmond cruising into the final break with an incredible 50 point lead.
It took four minutes for Jack Riewoldt to notch the first goal of the final quarter and effectively end the game as a contest. Debut Tiger Aaron Edwards earned his first goal in the Tigers' Black and Gold with a solid run down tackle while the Eagles managed a couple of late goals to keep the margin from being embarrassing to their shell-shocked supporters. As the home town fans streamed out of the stadium to the strains of “Tigerland” being sung with gusto by the small band of loyal Richmond supporters, Coach John Worsfold must have been scratching his head, wondering how things went so bad for his team after quarter time. In one of the upsets of the season so far, Richmond ran out 41 point winners and put their fight for the Top Eight back on track.
Richmond, now sitting with a 6-4 win loss record, has a week off with a bye in Round 11 before a crucial clash at the MCG against the Adelaide Crows in Round 12. West Coast will welcome a game against a struggling St Kilda at Etihad Stadium as they try to regroup after their mauling at the hands of the hungry Tigers.
Scoreboard West Coast: 3.3 3.6 5.9 8.14 (62) Richmond: 2.3 8.4 14.5 16.7 (103) Best Players West Coast: S.Selwood, Naitanui, Kennedy, Shuey, Priddis Richmond: Deledio, Vlastuin, Jackson, Cotchin, White, Morris
Article last changed on Sunday, June 16, 2013 - 5:03 AM EDT