Brook “Boris” Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA
Richmond headed north to Cairns in preparation for their third - and surely final - attempt to defeat the Gold Coast Suns at Cazaly Stadium. The ill-fated deal by Richmond CEO Brendan Gale to sell three home games to play in Cairns had backfired on the club which had lost both previous encounters in the tropical climes and incurred the wrath of the supporter group in the process. The stakes were even higher for the Round 16 clash with an improved Suns lining up against a chastened Richmond group, coming off a big loss to the Kangaroos the previous round. A win would not only get “Benny” Gale off the hook for his unpopular decision to pad the club coffers, it would also solidify the Tigers’ position in the Top Eight. For the Gold Coast, a win would give them a realistic chance of challenging for their first Finals appearance in just their third season in the AFL competition. Gold Coast received a boost in the lead up to the game with the magnificent Gary Ablett Jr. being declared fit after missing a week with a calf injury. Richmond was also boosted by the return of number one ruckman Ivan Maric who had missed time due to a nagging groin complaint.
Warm, windy conditions greeted the players as they took to the Cazaly Stadium surface in front of just over 11,000 spectators. The Suns won the all-important toss and opted to kick with the aid of a three to four goal breeze. A Jarrod Harbrow intercept had the Suns on the board within the first minute, albeit a minor score as Gary Ablett’s first kick hit the post. The Tigers leveled with a miss from Matthew White before Harley Bennell gave the Suns their first goal just a few minutes in. Gold Coast looked the sharper team early as the Tigers appeared to have trouble coming to grips with the humid, slippery conditions. Goals were hard to come by and it took until the ten minute mark for the Tigers to reply from a snap from Matthew Arnott. Matthew Shaw goaled for the Gold Coast before a free kick after disposal gave the Suns the chance to extend their lead, Sam Day making no mistake with a long kick from the 50 meter arc. At quarter time the home team held sway by two clear goals.
Richmond had the strong breeze behind their backs in the second quarter but failed to capitalize early, the Suns having the better chances without success until young gun Jaeger O’Meara threaded a goal from 20 meters out to extend the Suns lead. Tiger fans were getting nervous as the first ten minutes had failed to produce a goal for the boys in Black and Gold. The rest of the quarter saw a change in momentum as the Tigers picked up their work rate, winning the 50-50 contests around the ground and working hard to keep the ball in their forward line. The downside was that multiple attempts on goal resulted in points only, time running out with a stiff breeze to work with. At the 20 minute mark the prolific Daniel Jackson finally scored a goal for the beleaguered Tigers. Just a minute later it was Nathan Foley snapping a shot that bounced over the pack and fortuitously rolled through for another Richmond goal. Richmond continued to pepper the goals without further success until Brandon Ellis bent a beauty home on the breeze to give the Tigers a small six point lead at half time. Richmond would have been disappointed because they failed to capitalize fully on a ten minute period where they dominated possession. Daniel Jackson, minding Gary Ablett, was the catalyst for the Tiger onslaught with assistance from Trent Cotchin and Dustin Martin.
The all-important third quarter saw Tiger coach Damien Hardwick send numbers back into defense in an attempt to mitigate the Suns attack with the strong breeze. The tactic didn’t bother Sun Trent McKenzie as he finished a Greg Broughton attack sublimely off his non-preferred boot from close to the boundary line. Hardwick’s defensive plan started to pay dividends as the next ten minutes became trench warfare. It was ugly, uncompromising football as Richmond attempted to lock the football in and keep the Suns from getting any effective run. Jack Riewoldt had a shot on the counter attack but missed before a tough collision with the nuggetty Arnott saw Sun backman Rory Thompson stretchered from the field. The loss was a big blow to the Suns as Thompson had held sway against Tiger goal sneak Riewoldt. At the 15 minute mark, Jackson rolled through an important Tiger goal against the wind to keep Richmond’s nose in front. The goal became doubly important as the rain started to come down, making the already trying conditions nigh on impossible for clean handling of the footy. King and Arnott had chances to put the Gold Coast to the sword but could not finish their good work, both adding behinds to the Tiger scoreline. In the shadows of three quarter time, Josh Hall marked 25 meters out with the chance to get within two points of Richmond. Unfortunately for the Gold Coast, his shot missed, leaving Richmond with a seven point lead.
With the rain coming, the wind advantage had become almost negligible, much to Tiger coach Damien Hardwick’s dismay. If the Tigers were to defeat the Gold Coast for the first time ever they would not be able to rely on a strong breeze to help them out. Aaron Hall had the first chance of the final quarter after a 50 meter penalty was awarded against Tiger defender Steve Morris. Unfortunately for Suns' fans, Hall hit the woodwork with his attempt. Players threw themselves into contests in the slippery conditions and there was nothing pretty about the style of footy being played. Both teams missed chances until the 12 minute mark when the so far goalless Jack Riewoldt played on from the boundary 30 meters out, threading a wonderful and timely goal to give the Tigers a 16 point lead, sizeable given the conditions. Inside the last four minutes, Hardwick would not be able to enjoy the finish sweat-free as Campbell Brown goaled for the Suns to make it a slim ten point Tiger lead. Richmond did well to bottle things up at every clearance, not allowing the Suns any space to gain an avenue to goal and steal a win. A free kick to Andrew Boston for a high tackle gave local fans something to cheer about, but a poor kick sealed their fate – there would be no stirring comeback today. As the siren sounded, a relieved Richmond coaching box could finally breathe as exhausted players made their way from the ground.
Jackson, Martin and Cotchin were very good for the visitors while the returning Ivan Maric played an important role against an excellent Tom Nicholls for the Suns. Gary Ablett and Dion Prestia were also solid contributors for the Suns. Troy Chaplin continues to prove his worth as the newly recruited defender shows a poise under pressure that has been missing from the Tiger line up for some time. Richmond now holds a solid 6th position on the ladder but has a tough few weeks coming up, starting with a battle against an in-form Fremantle at the MCG next round. The Gold Coast, beaten but certainly not disgraced, have a tough task against a resurgent Collingwood at Metricon Stadium to look forward to.
Scoreboard Richmond: 1.3 4.10 5.13 6.17 (53) Gold Coast: 3.3 4.4 5.6 6.8 (44) Best Players Richmond: Jackson, Martin, Cotchin, Ellis, Chaplin Gold Coast: McKenzie,Prestia, Ablett, Nicholls, O'Meara
Article last changed on Tuesday, May 12, 2015 - 5:25 AM EDT