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Round six replay as Richmond runs over the top of Pies again

Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury tackles Richmond’s Shaun Grigg, but the Tiger still manages to get his hands free. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Round six replay as Richmond runs over the top of Pies again

Rohan Connolly    

There was a lot of talk this week about Richmond’s bumper Saturday afternoon clash with Collingwood at the MCG being just like the old days.

The build-up certainly had a retro feel about it. The actual game, however, bore more than passing resemblance not to the early 1980s, but to just three months ago, and the most recent meeting between the two clubs.

That afternoon in late April, the Magpies certainly gave Richmond plenty to think about, but after losing a couple of soldiers along the way and coming off an even shorter break than the Tigers after their Anzac Day commitments, it was the reigning premier which finished much the stronger.

And so it was in this highly-anticipated round 19 re-match. Collingwood gave everything, but while it won’t have lost much credibility, particularly after once more losing two players for the rest of the game before three-quarter time, once again ended up losing the match comfortably as well.

Richmond only won by 28 points this time rather than 43. The Tigers kicked five goals in a big last quarter compared to eight back in round six. But the feeling left was much the same. Collingwood worthy opponents, but the Tigers still ultimately stamping their superiority.

Not that they weren’t forced to drag everything out of the kit bag to collect the points, flag favouritism further entrenched and picking up a nice little slice of history along the way, too, their 18th straight win on the MCG setting a new record.

The Tigers had certainly started better, Jason Castagna converting a hack off the ground for the first goal a tick over three minutes in. By then, the Tigers were up to their fifth entry inside 50, the Pies were yet to register one. Jack Higgins nailed Tom Phillips in a tackle and booted the second.

But Collingwood wasn’t here to spectate. And for Pie fans, not to mention the historically-minded, the next few minutes had plenty to offer, the names Daicos and Brown putting their team’s first two goals on the board.

Those gains looked to have been cancelled out pretty quickly by some bad luck, though, Jeremy Howe copping the full force of an accidental knee to the head from teammate Darcy Moore after being pushed into an oncoming pack.

It ended his day, and saw Moore pay a price, too, having to shift on to dangerous-looking Tiger spearhead Jack Riewoldt.

At the same time, Richmond was taking it up a cog with three goals in under four minutes. The first came to Riewoldt. The next couple would have made the Collingwood coaching box cringe, first Castagna then debutant Liam Baker marking on the 50-metre line then dishing off a handball to the unmarked Jayden Short, who coolly closed the deal on either occasion.

It was 17 points the difference by quarter-time, Howe out of the game and the Magpies looking in all sorts. But the Pies haven’t been ones to meekly accept their fate this season, and in their biggest test thus far, they weren’t about to start.

Josh Thomas clawed one goal back within a minute of the restart with a nice goalsquare snap. Their next was even more impressive, Moore launching a rebound with a huge spoil, Jaidyn Stephenson going long to Brody Mihocek, and the Pie forward marking, playing on and dribbling it home.

And thus a see-sawing second term continued. Josh Caddy nailed a ripper from a tight angle for Richmond. Mason Cox answered for the Pies. Riewoldt marked in space and restored a 14-point lead. Cox again pulled it back from a free kick conceded by pinch-hitting ruckman Shaun Grigg, Richmond looking vulnerable each time Toby Nankervis came off for a spell.

When Will Hoskin-Elliott marked and goalled from point blank range, the gap was just two points, Collingwood ascendant in midfield, Dustin Martin well checked by Magpie opponent Levi Greenwood.

Martin was looking unusually tetchy. Of course, that would also be the cue for him to get involved in a timely manner. An unfortunate slip from Collingwood defender Tom Langdon allowed a long ball into the teeth of goal. And literally as the half-time siren rang, Martin made his mark. And goal.

In football terms, the third quarter was the apex of this heavyweight clash, another tit-for-tat half-hour of excitement, punch answered by counter-punch.

Magpie small forward Josh Thomas lit up the massive crowd of 88,180 with three of the Pies’ four goals for the term. Higgins booted a goal for Richmond which will doubtless be debated for days, if not weeks, throwing the ball up in the air to volley after he’d ducked behind an intrusive goal post.

Collingwood won the quarter by four points, but most of the statistics by a bit more. The Pies had 10 more tackles for the term, five more clearances, seven more contested possessions and doubled Richmond for hit-outs, Brodie Grundy giving his midfield an armchair ride from the ruck as they again cashed in on Nankervis’s bench time.

But perhaps not quite enough on the scoreboard. At the final change, as prolific as had been Scott Pendlebury, Steele Sidebottom, Taylor Adams and Phillips, as resilient as was Moore in defence and dangerous as were Thomas and Hoskin-Elliott up forward, Richmond, if only by four points, still led.

And the Magpies took that reality to the final huddle not only with the knowledge that Howe and Matt Scharenberg wouldn’t be coming back, but that Richmond is the best finishing team in the competition, one which had won 13 of 17 final terms this season, outscoring opponents by a total of 33 goals.

And that’s pretty much how it played out. It was far from a belting, but within five-and-a-half minutes of what might have been an epic final quarter, the game was in contrast all but over.

Shane Edwards had a hand in the first two goals, his long ball to the teeth of goal seeing Riewoldt mark strongly and kick his third goal of the day only a minute in. Before three minutes had elapsed, Edwards fed out a handball to Jacob Townsend for another.

And as five minutes ticked over, Kane Lambert spotted Martin and Greenwood in an isolated one-on-one. The result was predictable, Martin pushing off his man with strength and charging into an open goal.

The gap was now 22 points and even though there was plenty of time left to play, it was very clear Collingwood wouldn’t be coming back one more time.

You also couldn’t help but wonder whether this was a microcosm of the bigger picture, too. Richmond isn’t unbeatable. But the Tigers are better enough than anyone else. And when it matters most. Their rivals have another couple of months to change that. But based on this game, they’ll need to get a wriggle on.

RICHMOND 5.2 8.3 11.6 16.9 (105)
COLLINGWOOD 2.1 7.1 11.2 12.5 (77)
GOALS – Richmond: Martin 3, Riewoldt 3, Higgins 2, Short 2, Castagna 2, Caddy, Townsend, Edwards, Rioli. Collingwood: Thomas 4, Hoskin-Elliott 3, Cox 2, Daicos, Brown, Mihocek
BEST – Richmond: Prestia, Edwards, Astbury, Short, Broad, Higgins, Riewoldt. Collingwood: Grundy, Thomas, Pendlebury, Moore, Greenwood, Adams, Sidebottom.
INJURIES – Collingwood: Howe (concussion), Mihocek (ankle), Scharenberg (knee)
CROWD: 88,180 at the MCG


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