Arms length: Stewart Crameri (left) battles with Alex Rance. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
RICHMOND 4.1 5.7 11.9 15.14 (104) ESSENDON 2.4 3.6 5.8 9.11 (65)
GOALS Richmond: Edwards 4, Vickery 4, Jackson 2, King 2, Martin, Grigg, Tuck. Essendon: Melksham 2, Jetta 2, Hurley 2, Howlett, Dalgleish, Lovett-Murray.
BEST Richmond: Ellis, Jackson, Edwards, Cotchin, Martin, Vickery. Essendon: Hibberd, Melksham, Watson, Goddard, Stanton, Lovett-Murray.
UMPIRES Donlon, Dalgleish, Farmer.
CROWD 60,979 at MCG.
No one was quite sure pre-game how Saturday night's MCG clash between Essendon and Richmond was going to pan out, one side already with its finals prospects ended by the AFL Commission without having fired a shot, the other, safely ensconced in the eight, trying as best it could to keep its powder dry in preparation for next week.
So what happened? Shocks, surprises, controversy? No. Really, this contest played out pretty much how logic dictated it should. Not very physically. With little incident, save for Richmond runner Matt White's untimely hamstring injury. And with the side whose raison d'etre had been stripped away ultimately run all over by the opponent with at least something still to play for.
AFL Round 23: Essendon vs. Richmond
Richmond's Nick Vlastuin chases Essendon's Lauchlan Dalgleish at the MCG. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
|View Match Statistics|
|Players||Hurley (2.1), Jetta (2.0), Melksham (2.0), Lovett-Murray (1.2), Dalgleish (1.0), Howlett (1.0), Davey (0.1), Goddard (0.1), Hibberd (0.1), Merrett (0.1), Ryder (0.1)||Scorers||Edwards (4.1), Vickery (4.0), Jackson (2.0), King (2.0), Martin (1.3), Grigg (1.1), Tuck (1.0), Conca (0.2), Petterd (0.2), Foley (0.1), White (0.1)|
To say that this game ended with a whimper might be to imply that it had started with a bang, which would be totally incorrect. Perhaps a car's manual transmission would be a better analogy. As in started in first gear, and barely got beyond second, save for a brief little flurry in third in the corresponding quarter, when Richmond slammed on four goals in five minutes to turn a narrow lead into essentially a match-winning one.
Three of that quartet came from key forwards Ty Vickery and Aaron Edwards, who ended up with eight goals between them and made the potentially conspicuous absence of spearhead Jack Riewoldt not matter much at all in the end.
They were fed constantly, a steady diet of chances created by the likes of Brandon Ellis, who was everywhere, Daniel Jackson, who racked up 30 touches and a couple of goals besides, and the usual suspects, skipper Trent Cotchin, Dustin Martin and Brett Deledio. And once the gap had grown to 38 points, there was a certain inevitability about the result. Last week, the Bombers had found something against the odds. This time, given the events of the past week, finding something similar was simply implausible.
That game, too, was error-riddled, but full of steely commitment. It's fair to say this one was less than physical. And it became obvious pretty early in the piece that defensive resolve was not going to loom large in this contest. And that either side was going to take risks. Big ones, in the case of Essendon youngster Lauchlan Dalgeish, who marked well then preceded to chip inboard inside his defensive 50 and promptly turn the ball over to Cotchin, in turn finding Aaron Edwards, who had the first goal on the board.
Essendon squandered its chances in reply, first Stewart Crameri spraying one out on-the-full, then Jackson Merrett jaw droppingly managing to miss from 12 metres out on his own under absolutely no pressure. Somewhere, the likes of Malcolm Blight were smiling ruefully and thinking: "Welcome to the club". That's how bad it was.
And Richmond made the Bombers pay. Jake King brought down Bomber Cale Hooker in a nice tackle and dobbed the resultant free kick. Edwards, lively up forward, had his second when he kept the ball alive on the boundary line near goal and ran it in for the point blank finish. The Dustin Martin launched one from just on 50 metres, the scoreboard now reading four goals to zip and things looking ominous for Essendon.
Not that the Bombers were being smashed in general play. And soon their conversion improved, too, both of the Dons' retirees David Hille and Nathan Lovett-Murray combining in a passage which produced Essendon's first goal. The second came after a lovely tap from Jobe Watson, the Bomber skipper off-loading before he was inevitably tackled, and Ben Howlett's snap sailing through.
But in the second term it was Richmond failing to make the most of its opportunities. Ricky Petterd sprayed a couple. So did Martin. So did Reece Conca. In fact, to be brutally honest, the entire quarter had little to recommend it, defensive pressure again sorely absent, but seemingly no one able to convert the relatively simple chances which came their way, save for the Tigers' Jackson, and Essendon's Jake Melksham.
And so, once the Tigers briefly put their foot to the floor, did this game revert to a benefit of sorts. Some nice enough football, but with little riding on it, nothing to bring the Richmond faithful to full voice as much as the Tigerland theme song come the final siren. They've at least got bigger fish to fry next week, and it was song belted out with the gusto of 12 years of pent-up frustration at not having that opportunity.
SPLIT THE DIFFERENCE
Saturday night's win by Richmond left its scoreline against Essendon for the year at 1-1, no great surprise seeing the teams had split their previous 12 contests since 2007, neither side having won two games against the other in a single season since the Tigers beat the Bombers twice in 2008. The score was also 1-1 in 2009, 2011 and last year, with just the one clash in 2010. Overall, Essendon has 103 wins, the Tigers 86, with four draws since 1908, the year Richmond came into the competition.
TOUGH CALL ON TUCK?
Shane Tuck's retirement call during the week wasn't entirely unexpected, the 31-year-old struggling for games towards the end of this season after a mid-season shoulder injury. It's been a laudable effort for the son of former Hawthorn great Michael Tuck to rack up 172 games over 10 seasons, seven times finishing in the best and fairest top 10 after having been initially rejected by the Hawks. Restored to the line-up against Essendon and starting as sub, Tuck came on for the second half after Matt White was injured. The Tigers now have to decide whether he keeps his spot for his first AFL final, with fellow old-timer Chris Newman and suspended Shane Edwards expected back.
HOW DID HE MISS?
Jackson Merrett is a promising small man for Essendon who has shown some good signs in 13 games this season after one game last year. But he might have some bad dreams about his miss from point blank range in the opening minutes. Merrett was in space near goal and after accepting a pass from Brendon Goddard, ran in with no pressure. But only 12 metres out, and still with space to have run right to the goal line, he steered the ball on to his boot, only to inexplicably miss. It was right up there as one of the game's great goalkicking howlers.