Hanger: Jack Riewoldt's marking was on, but his goalkicking wasn't.

Hanger: Jack Riewoldt's marking was on, but his goalkicking wasn't. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

WEST COAST 5.3 11.6 12.11 16.11 (107) RICHMOND 4.2 9.4 12.9 14.13 (97)
GOALS West Coast: Darling 4, Hill 3, Hams 2, Masten 2, Lynch 2, Cox, Kennedy, S Selwood. Richmond: Miller 3, Jackson 2, Martin 2, Riewoldt 2, Vickery 2, Ellis, I Maric, Cotchin.
BEST West Coast: Kerr, Priddis, Gaff, Naitanui, Darling, S Selwood. Richmond: Cotchin, Deledio, Martin, Rance, Foley, Maric, Grigg.
INJURIES West Coast: Kennedy (ankle), Brown (concussion, poke in eye), Mackenzie (ear infection) replaced in selected side by Brown. Richmond: Dea (head knock).
UMPIRES McBurney, Armstrong, Bannister.
CROWD 28,448 at Etihad Stadium.

THE Richmond cheer squad was blunt as cheer squads never are. ''Close enough will do no more,'' read its run-through. ''A Tiger win we want to score.'' Discretion being the better part of fealty, it was on the side that faced away from the team as it ran onto the ground.

Alas and alack, the Tigers had to settle again for close enough. Uni-win Richmond matched unbeaten West Coast this day for commitment, courage, system and enterprise, also in the vital ball-winning statistics, but not quite for class and not, when it mattered, poise.

Eagle's Matt Priddis tackled by Richmond's Nathan Foley at Etihad. Click for more photos

AFL Round 5 - Richmond v West Coast

Eagle's Matt Priddis tackled by Richmond's Nathan Foley at Etihad. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

  • Eagle's Matt Priddis tackled by Richmond's Nathan Foley at Etihad.
  • Eagle's Nic Naitanui handballs away from Richmond's Alex Rance and Shane Tuck.
  • Eagle's Nic Naitanui handballs away from Richmond's Alex Rance and Shane Tuck.
  • Eagle's Matt Rosa hassles Richmond's Jack Riewoldt.
  • Eagle's Luke Shuey hassles Richmond's Shane Tuck.
  • Eagle's Quinten Lynch and Richmond's Dylan Grimes chase the ball.
  • Richmond coach Damien Hardwick at quarter time at Etihad.
  • Eagle's Shaun Hurn tackled by Richmond's Shane Tuck.
  • Eagle's Mitch Brown leaves the ground injured.
  • Richmond's Brad Miller marks ahead of Eagle's Ashley Smith.
  • Richmond's Shane Tuck tries to block a kick from Eagle's Daniel Kerr.
  • Richmond's Ale Rance out marked by Eagle's Josh Kennedy.
  • Richmond's Dustin Martin traps Eagle's Daniel Kerr.

The last four minutes spoke for all 120. Jack Riewoldt and Brett Deledio both had set shots to win it for Richmond, but for Riewoldt the angle was too acute and for Deledio, the distance was too great. The Eagles whisked the ball via a Beau Waters skyscraper to the other end, where from inside a vipers' nest of slithering arms and legs, Jack Darling snapped his fourth goal. It landed in the Richmond cheer squad. Six seconds remained.

When the siren sounded, Richmond captain Chris Newman hurled his mouthguard away in a paroxysm of disgust. The nearly team had done it again.

Everyone at Richmond knows the Tiger score. The fixture lined them up against four of last year's top five in the first five weeks of the season. It was a horror draw, but it was also an opportunity. To validate their claim to be ever improving, they would have to win at least one. Now, by ever decreasing margins, they had lost them all, to Carlton (44 points), Collingwood (21), Geelong (10) and West Coast (10). Apart from anything else, it puts the Tigers on a handicap in what is likely to be a cluttered race for a place in the final eight.

It also leaves them in the classic pretenders' mindset: until they beat a better class of opponent, some part of them will not quite dare to believe that they ever can. Richmond yesterday was personified by Tyrone Vickery. At 50 games, his real business in AFL football began this day. Ditto for the Tigers.

On paper, Richmond was the equal of West Coast in midfield, but like most teams against the Eagles, overmatched at each end.

But Eric Mackenzie was a pre-match Eagles withdrawal, and his replacement, Mitch Brown, had to be replaced at quarter-time because of injury, and Josh Kennedy also was injured and lacked his usual impact, and this was enough fractionally to destabilise West Coast.

The match was played in spurts and bursts, corresponding with who had momentary ascendancy in the midfield. At times, when Nic Naitanui conducted the match as if it was an orchestra. Daniel Kerr and Matt Priddis, in particular, gladly played his tune. Elsetimes, Deledio and Trent Cotchin and especially Dustin Martin ghosted through the Eagles as if they were holograms, and Richmond held sway.

Richmond made the running, and the mistakes, and the Eagles were well-stocked to capitalise. In the first half, Richmond lacked West Coast's crispness when moving the ball down the ground. In the second, they were not as efficient. Bravery never was an issue. Early in the last quarter, Matt Dea and Darling collided head-on in mid-air, dazing Darling and bloodying Dea, who had to be helped from the ground, but after 10 minutes of panel-beating returned.

In the second quarter, the Eagles slipped to a three-goal lead and were pegged back, then to a four-goal lead and again the Tigers squared the ledger.

In the last quarter, Richmond seized the lead when Priddis was penalised for a sling tackle on Riewoldt. But the Eagles kicked four of the last five goals. Instructively, three were snapshots in half-openings. The Eagles have many ways of kicking goals, and this day needed them all.

For the Tigers, the difference might be as little and as much as the composure of Riewoldt. Playing up the ground looks to have robbed him of his previous certitude in front of goal. Yesterday, he toiled hard, and reprised old times with one hanger, but kicked 2.3. Now that the goals are further away, they seem to have become narrower.

Richmond was shocked, but not surprised. This, seemingly, is the club's eternal lot. As the Tigers left the field, the fans rallied to give them a round of applause. The players' faces were blank as stone, yet conveyed one thought, truly a reflection. ''Close enough will do no more,'' they seemed to say to the supporters. ''A Tiger win we want to score.''

MYSTERY HITS

There was something in the air under the roof at Etihad as first Scott Selwood went down behind play and rose gingerly to his feet then Jack Riewoldt was left on his haunches on the ground after another mystery incident behind play. Riewoldt rose and vomited as he left the ground evidently hit low.

DEA AND NIGHT

The lights went out for Matt Dea in the last quarter. Running with the flight of the ball, Dea didn't flinch as Jack Darling came leading out from the goal square. The pair met and Darling's hip and elbow cannoned into Dea's head. The young Tiger came off bleeding.

NICE GOAL, YOU ARE OFF

Poor Brandon Ellis, he had just booted a goal to bring the Tigers back to within a point of West Coast, when he was called to the bench. The red vest was brought out and Ellis was out of the game substituted for Matt White. A night earlier St Kilda had done the same thing and subbed Beau Wilkes out immediately after goaling. - MICHAEL GLEESON