The Sunday Mail (Queensland)
TIGERS SLOG ON
Richmond do it tough to continue march to finals
IT WAS a no-frills win Richmond would take on any wet MCG night.
A tough, hard slog that will require a queue at the Punt Road Oval ice-baths to ease aching bodies at recovery today.
To beat Essendon, another traditional suburban rival, by 27 points for the second time this season was the bonus for keeping alive those top four ambitions.
Pre-game showers that continued well into the first half ensured the normally freescoring Tigers were never going to hit the scoreboard hard. A measly 10 goals from 64 inside 50 entries illustrated the impossible task.
Yes, there was that Tiger trademark quick transition from the backline through the centre corridor – but those options to build a big tally were further hampered by Jack Riewoldt being held goal-less by Bomber defender Michael Hurley.
Tiger colleague Ty Vickery again stood tall and effective in his 100th game with another valuable contribution.
He kicked two goals, gave off another and generally provided a forward presence, even finding space for the inevitable spilling balls.
Essendon’s recent struggles to compile a competitive total were always going to continue, this time floundering against the organised Richmond backline so well-led by Alex Rance and his Tiger mates.
The only real concern for Richmond was a heavy head knock to Brett Deledio in the last few minutes of the contest from Courtenay Dempsey’s frightening sling tackle that will attract the AFL match review panel’s attention.
Richmond was poised to break open the contest when Kamdyn McIntosh cleverly advanced the wet ball with three toepokes around the southern wing to set up a Dustin Martin goal early in the third quarter.
But the Tigers struggled for goals despite the weight of inside 50 advances as the persistent high balls made it tough for marking targets Riewoldt and Vickery.
Matt Thomas and Shaun Grigg added goals with kicks that slithered through across the rain-soaked turf, but the 16-point lead at the last change did not seem safe, even in such difficult scoring conditions.
To no one’s surprise in the Irish-type weather, Essendon’s promoted rookie Conor McKenna joined that illustrious list of first kick-first goal achievers.
The 19-year-old was swamped by teammates after Shaun McKernan drew an opponent and handballed to the unmarked new boy who ran to the goal line just five minutes into the game.
Essendon’s pressure and endeavour caught the Tigers by surprise and it delivered the first two goals to the committed Bombers.
But Richmond gradually settled with ruckman Ivan Maric gifted their first goal when retiring Bomber Paul Chapman infringed the protected area and gave away a 50m penalty in time-on of the opening quarter.
On a night not suited to the tall targets, Vickery overshadowed Riewoldt by playing smart in the slippery conditions to contribute three goals in the tight second quarter.
He regularly found space out the back to shake off opponent Jake Carlisle.
Really, Richmond should have gone into the long break with a far more substantial scoreboard advantage – four goals from 37 inside 50s was a poor return.