Richmond have breathed life into their season, jumping temporarily back into the top eight with a gritty victory over the Brisbane Lions on the Gold Coast.
Breaking a run of four straight losses including defeats to Gold Coast and Collingwood in the past fortnight, the Tigers celebrated Jack Riewoldt’s 300th match with a brilliant second half that saw them run away with a 20-point win at Metricon Stadium.
But the Tigers’ injuries woes continued with Kamdyn McIntosh subbed out at quarter-time due to a hamstring strain and champion Dustin Martin sidelined late in the third term following a collision with Mitch Robinson. David Astbury then left the field with an ankle concern with just minutes left on the clock.
Riewoldt starred in his milestone match with six goals including three in an important third term which helped his side take momentum into the final change.
Just five days earlier, Collingwood blasted seven goals to one in a devastating final quarter which left Richmond’s season hanging by a thread. But with the game on the line on Friday night, the Tigers did enough to prevent Brisbane from climbing over the top of them, overwhelming the Lions in the territory game by dominating the centre clearances.
Hugh McCluggage and Zac Bailey kicked consecutive goals with just under six minutes left on the clock to cut the margin back to 13 points, but Toby Nankervis – in his first game back since round 11 – won the next centre clearance, starting a chain that ended in a big set shot from Jack Graham (two goals) that sealed the win.
The loss now leaves Brisbane vulnerable of missing the top four. It was the Lions’ second straight defeat after last weekend’s loss to St Kilda, and Port Adelaide have an opportunity to replace Brisbane in fourth spot when they meet the Saints on Saturday.
The Lions dominated the second term after trailing by seven points at the first change. It started around the stoppages, with the Lions winning 18 of 23 clearances in the quarter to kick five goals to Richmond’s three.
Joe Daniher got busy kicking two goals in as many minutes, before Lincoln McCarthy gave his side the lead for the first time mid-way through the second term.
Mabior Chol, who kicked a career-high four goals on the night, soccered through a much-needed goal against the momentum to bring the deficit back to one-point, but Devon Robertson extended the Lions’ buffer with an accurate set-shot.
For all their dominance, however – 20 inside-50s to nine in that second quarter – the Lions led by just six points at the long break.
Damien Hardwick, speaking on the Seven coverage, said he was most concerned about the Lions’ stranglehold in the clearances and the ease at which they took marks inside 50.
And that’s where the Tigers turned the match in the third term, led by Martin.
The Brownlow medallist, who had just seven touches to the main break, had eight disposals in the second term and set up Riewoldt for his third major to get the game back within a kick.
Riewoldt then kicked his fourth, marking back with the flight, to give his side the lead and when he landed his fifth major from a push-in-the-back free kick, the home side led by a then game-high 16 points.
Martin, however, found himself on the sidelines after clashing heavily with Mitch Robinson. Attempting to take away a centre clearance, Martin smashed into Robinson who was coming in off the wing and was left grabbing his side and gasping for air.
He sat out the last quarter on the bench in a tracksuit, and walked gingerly onto the field to celebrate with his teammates after the final siren.
Chol arguably cemented his spot in the Richmond side for the foreseeable future with the four majors, while also taking four marks, four clearances and 12 hitouts. Before Friday night, Chol had kicked just two goals in six prior games this season. He and Nankervis overworked Oscar McInerney in the second half, particularly at the centre bounces.
Tom Lynch was quiet but kicked two goals including a fourth-quarter set shot from a free kick that saw his side open up a buffer that eventually proved insurmountable.
Daniher finished with three, while Jayden Short amassed 27 disposals off half back.
The match was delayed by 15 minutes after the Tigers’ bus was held up in traffic on the way to the ground.
BEST: Tigers: J Riewoldt, M Chol, J Short, K Lambert, S Bolton. Lions: H McCluggage, J Lyons, L Neale, M Robinson, D Zorko