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Dockers down Tigers by 20 points

Fremantle 3.1 7.5 13.8 16.9 (105) Richmond 1.3 5.9 7.11 12.13 (85)
Goals: Fremantle: Ballantyne 6, Pavlich 3, Barlow 2, Fyfe, Mundy, Spurr, Clarke, D.Pearce Richmond: Deledio 2, Cotchin 2, Miles, Ellis, Newman, Foley, Batchelor, Riewoldt, Martin, Maric
Best: Fremantle: Fyfe, Ballantyne, Hill, Mundy, Barlow, Spurr, Crowley, Duffield. Richmond: Miles, Ellis, Foley, Rance, Cotchin, Martin.
Umpires: Robert Findlay, Chris Kamolins, Leigh Fisher.
Official Crowd: 22,074 at MCG.

Fremantle mightn't always be the prettiest side in the AFL to watch, but you have to admire the Dockers' capacity to first absorb opposition pressure, then respond with ruthless efficiency on the counter-attack. And Saturday's 20-point win over Richmond provided the perfect example.

When the sides went to the first break, it was Richmond which had had the ball in its forward half for 67 per cent of playing time, but it was the Dockers' who led by 10 points. Come half-time, the figures were even more stark.

By then, Fremantle led by eight points, having kicked 7.5 from an unbelievably low 15 inside 50 entries. That's a score from 80 per cent of forward thrusts, not bad at all when you consider the No.1 ranked side in the competition across the season goes at 52.5 per cent.

It was defensive steel and forward smarts that Richmond simply couldn't match, despite two bursts, one before half-time and one in the last quarter, in which the Tigers seriously threatened the visitors.

Four goals in a row in the second term took the Tigers from the brink to a lead. Another four in a row late in the piece brought Richmond within 14 points of Fremantle with still more than five minutes to play. But if there's any side in the competition that has had enough practise protecting a narrow-ish lead, it's Ross Lyon's. And the Dockers promptly responded with another brace to settle the issue once and for all.


The first of those, his sixth for the game, came from Hayden Ballantyne, who personified efficiency. Only 11 disposals produced 6.1 plus a score assist. He harassed, he ran tirelessly up and back, up and back, and only one player on the ground equalled his influence.

That was teammate Nat Fyfe, who was superb. The Docker star played one of his very best hands at the MCG, finishing with 32 possessions, 21 of them contested, eight clearances and a goal that followed a breathtakingly good mark in the middle of a big pack. What a gun he is.

That pair were pivotal to what ended up being the decisive period of the match, Fremantle booting seven unanswered goals from late in the second quarter until midway through the third, a four-point deficit becoming a near 40-point lead.

That would have seemed pretty unlikely in the opening salvos, given how tuned in the Tigers looked initially. Even before the first bounce, in fact.

Fremantle serial pest Ryan Crowley ran to Brett Deledio. And the Tiger star immediately ran forward, where he could both utilise his considerable skills in a goalkicking capacity as well as take Crowley out of the midfield hustle and bustle.

The ploy couldn't have worked better, when from the game's first centre break, Bachar Houli found Deledio on a lead, and from a tight angle, he converted. That seemed to spur the Tigers on, and for the first 10 minutes, their pressure and tackling was top notch, with the Dockers lookly faintly rattled.

The wake-up call for Freo came with the application of its own pressure. First, Ballantyne nailed Dustin Martin with a tackle unlucky not to be rewarded. Then Danyle Pearce wrapped up Richmond skipper Trent Cotchin up similarly, and this time did get the prize, his pass finding Lee Spurr, who put his team's first on the board.

Only a couple of minutes later, David Mundy made it two when Ballantyne found him in too much space. And after a couple of Richmond "posters" from Martin and Jack Riewoldt, Michael Barlow clocked up the third.

Anthony Miles was super impressive for the Tigers around the ball but already the portents were ominous, some untimely hesitation from Houli when he was camped under a high ball and some fumbles from Brandon Ellis not sending a great message to teammates or the Tiger faithful.

And by the time Martin had conceded a bizarre goal, penalised for a deliberate rushed behind conceded from a handball about 20 metres from goal, the gap was out to 22 points.

Richmond's response was worthy, and the Tigers can't be accused this week of not having continued to plug away. But this result said all that needed to be said about the gap in class between a team which, given its handy draw and steadily improving form, seems destined for the top four, and another which, now sitting 3-9 and facing a rampant Sydney next week, might as well already start talking about next year.