Richmond returned to the top eight after holding off a frantic fourth quarter comeback attempt from rivals Carlton by 15 points at a wet MCG on Thursday night.
The Tigers (8-5) held a 28-point lead midway through the final stanza with Shai Bolton running into an open goal and taunting the trailing defender, following a three-quarter-time tussle.
But the Blues (9-4) threatened to make Bolton and his teammates pay, with Harry McKay kicking three goals in three minutes and Jack Newnes seemingly adding another from a ridiculous angle, before it was overturned by the score review.
Watch every blockbuster AFL match this weekend Live & Ad-Break Free In-Play on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >
Richmond went up the other end soon after and goalled through Shane Edwards, settling their nerves and eventually sealing victory, 11.15 (81) to 9.12 (66).
The win moves the Tigers into the top eight at the expense of Collingwood, while Carlton – who could’ve been tied for first on wins – instead could drop as low as seventh by the end of the round.
QUARTER-BY-QUARTER MATCH REPORT
There were no late changes for either side with Maurice Rioli (Richmond) and Lachie Fogarty (Carlton) the medical subs.
Marlion Pickett kicked the opening goal for Richmond and Carlton suffered another blow to its defense, with Adam Saad coming from the ground after an errant finger to the eye – he returned to the ground 10 minutes later.
Shai Bolton soccered a ball off the ground in the goalsquare – Sam Docherty claimed to have touched it but the review was inconclusive.
Carlton struggled to do any damage in its forward half, with Tom Lynch’s goal at the other end making it all the more costly.
By quarter-time it was a 16-point margin.
While the rain eased, Richmond’s dominance continued to start the second quarter, with Noah Balta, Lynch and Jack Riewoldt all hitting the scoreboard within the opening 10 minutes.
The Blues simply could not get going, while Richmond were surging at every opportunity and hitting targets the Blues simply could not.
Lynch in particular was thriving against Carlton’s undermanned defense.
The Blues finally kicked their first goal of the game via a George Hewett snap following a classy handball from Patrick Cripps.
That goal looked to kickstart the Blues, with Lochie O’Brien launching the ball through from long range to make it two goals in 30 seconds for the side.
The Blues’ trademark dominance around contest and handball game finally looked to be clicking back into gear.
Richmond had some opportunities at the other end but this time it was the Tigers who couldn’t convert.
Harry McKay took a great contested mark and nailed the set shot to reduce the margin to 19 points.
Crucially, Richmond managed a goal in a dying second, with Lynch kicking his third major of the half to give the side a 25-point lead at half-time.
Despite Carlton’s stoppage game being lauded this year, it was Richmond that fired in the stat, kicking 24 points to seven.
Both sides missed opportunities early in the third quarter, but the first goal went to Daniel Rioli in what was a hammer blow for the Blues.
Some desperation from Charlie Curnow helped bring the ball to ground in the Blues’ forward half, from which Corey Durdin pounced and put through a much-needed goal.
After a period of desperation for both sides, it was Jack Martin who broke the deadlock, bringing the margin back to under three straight kicks.
Tensions flared at three-quarter time, with Cripps appearing to accuse Dion Prestia of pushing him into the foot of teammate Sam Walsh.
Richmond held a 14-point lead at the final change.
Shai Bolton kicked the first goal of the final quarter, but caused controversy after holding the ball out to trailing opponent Sam Docherty as he streamed into an open goal.
“You can’t do that to Sam Docherty,” Josh Jenkins said on AFL Nation, while Carlton supporters jeered upon seeing the replay.
In worse news for the Tigers, Noah Balta appeared to injure his hamstring and was subbed out of the game to be replaced by Maurice Rioli.
After Richmond led by as much as 28 points, Harry McKay kicked three goals in three minutes before Jack Newnes appeared to kick another from an absurd angle – the score review found it was touched.
The Tigers went up the other end and managed a settling major from Shane Edwards to lead by 14 with 9:14 remaining.
Club debutant Sam Durdin was then subbed out for Carlton with a knee injury, in a ridiculous new blow to their defensive stocks.
THE 3-2-1, via David Zita and Max Laughton
3. KIND RUN HOME TO TURN SEPTEMBER INTO TIGER TIME
Sometimes four points is bigger than just that. This was one of those games.
Carlton could’ve gone three games clear inside the top eight with a win on Thursday night, but instead Richmond moved into the final places.
The Tigers now sit eighth on percentage, though they could move up depending on results in St Kilda and Sydney’s games later this round.
But more importantly the win sets up Damien Hardwick’s side for a clear run at September, as they have one of the easiest remaining fixtures in the AFL.
While almost every contender faces a murderer’s row of fellow finals fancies, Richmond has just three games left against the current top eight – Geelong (next week), Fremantle (Round 19) and Brisbane (Round 20). And all of those games are in Melbourne.
The 2017, 2018 and 2020 premiers can otherwise expect to be favorites in most if not all of their other games, against West Coast, Gold Coast (away), North Melbourne, Port Adelaide (away), Hawthorn and Essendon.
Having won six of their last seven games, the Tigers should be hopeful of winning at least five of their remaining nine, which would put them onto 13 victories. That should be enough for footy finals, and a couple more wins would put them in the top four mix.
As for the Blues, they should only need four more wins – but only four of their remaining games (West Coast, GWS, Adelaide and Collingwood) are against teams outside of the eight, so it may be tight.
2. STOPPAGE SWITCH WORKS FOR TIGERS
If there’s one thing Carlton are, it’s a stoppage side.
If there’s one thing Richmond aren’t, it’s a stoppage side.
So imagine the surprise when it was the Tigers who dominated at the coalface, thriving at clearance as it kicked the first six goals of the game, including three goals to none in the opening term.
That clearance battle was clearly an agenda item for Damien Hardwick heading into the match.
“They smacked us clearance wise in round one but we’ve got a lot better in that facet of our game over the last four to five weeks,” he told Fox Footy pre-game.
“In theory it’s won and lost in clearances today.
“The ability to fight for that contest on the inside and then get it to the outside is going to be really important and both sides do that really well.”
Hardwick’s words were put into action by the Tigers, with a brilliant first term setting the tone.
In the first 14 minutes of that term, the Tigers won the clearance count six to one.
“They actually won the first quarter clearances 10-6 and this is the team that is the best in the business when it comes to contested possession and clearances,” Jason Dunstall said at quarter-time.
“They’re getting what they need, that means the territory battle is working.”
By half-time, the clearance count was 24 to 14 in favor of Richmond. That clearance lead of 10 marked the Tigers’ best return in the first half of the season so far.
1. BLUES’ STRENGTH BECOMES WEAKNESS
Carlton’s willingness to handball through traffic and use what David King terms “leg drive” this season has been a trademark of this Michael Voss led side in 2022.
It has worked for them in so many games this year, but on Thursday night it was their system, like fellow top-four contenders Fremantle a few weeks prior, that just didn’t cut it in the wet.
Once the rain cleared the Blues began to look a better side, but the lead Richmond opened up in that time provided too much to reign in, though not for lack of trying by the Blues.
“Carlton, this has been their greatest strength their handball out of contest. It’s worked for them so well but in these conditions you just have to be careful, at the right time you need to surge the ball forward,” Leigh Montagna said on Fox Footy.
“Eventually if you keep handballing you run yourself into pressure.
“They’lve just looked for the perfect play a little too often compared to Richmond, who are happy to get the ball moving forward.”
Richmond, meanwhile, may well still be the best wet weather side in the competition.
If it’s raining in September, look out.
The way the Tigers are going, however, you may have to look out regardless of the conditions.
Re-live Richmond v Carlton in our live blog below!
If you can’t see the blog, tap here.