You have to go back to May 8, 2016 - a 46-point loss against Hawthorn – for the last time Richmond were without Dylan Grimes, David Astbury and Alex Rance in the same side.
Against Fremantle on Wednesday night, the Tigers’ key defensive posts were manned by Noah Balta, Nathan Broad and Nick Vlastuin.
The back-six were resolute, holding the Dockers to four goals for the night after being under siege for two of the four quarters.
Richmond didn’t have its best night, but ground-out an important 27-point win against a plucky Dockers’ outfit, finishing 8.8 (56) to 4.5 (29).
Early on, Richmond was able to press up high and park the ball in its front-half, but it was made to defend closer to goal at the back-end of the first quarter.
That continued in quarters two and three, before the Tigers did enough to edge clear by the final siren.
The Tigers recorded the first nine inside 50s of the game - finishing 14–10 for the opening term - as the Dockers settled into the game after Richmond’s initial barrage of ball into the forward 50.
The assertive nature of the mark by Tom Lynch over Docker Nathan Wilson was indicative of Richmond’s dominance at the start of the opening term.
Lynch goalled, the Tigers’ second and the reigning premier was flexing its muscles.
Richmond ended the term just eight points to the good though, as Fremantle steadied.
The Tigers’ baby-faced big man kickstarted the second term with his second goal after some toughness and brilliance by Thomson Dow and Jack Riewoldt.
Jason Castagna centred a ball to the top of the square, which was spoiled defiantly by the Docker defenders, Dow swooped onto the loose ball, fumbled, but then pounced back on the bobbling ball, gathered and flicked a reflex handball out to Riewoldt.
Riewoldt then saw Lynch out of the corner of his eye, skied a floater in his direction and Lynch marked on his chest in the opposite forward pocket.
Lynch’s second set-shot sailed through, extending Richmond’s lead beyond two goals.
Kamdyn McIntosh produced Richmond’s fourth goal for the game after some astute positioning and poise which saw him scoot into goal and snap truly on his right boot.
The Dockers’ developing defensive intent allowed them to make the Tigers earn their keep, stymying their ball movement through the corridor and forcing them wide at any cost.
The ball pinged between the arcs in a low-scoring first half with five goals kicked collectively.
Jayden Short enhanced his standing as one of the better small defenders in the game, collecting 14 disposals in the first half and gaining 244 metres with those touches.
When there was a spillage in the back-half, Short was there to mop it up and penetrate back in Richmond’s direction.
The vision of Short’s hunching gait exiting the Tigers’ defensive half and then thumping the ball back with purpose has been a mainstay for the last two-and-a-half years and he’s now starting to gain the recognition he rightfully deserves.
Short finished the game with a team-high 23 disposals, five intercepts and 439 metres gained.
Fremantle was dominant around the stoppages - +15 clearances midway through the third quarter and +19 by the end of it - which meant Richmond was made to defend for large portions of the first three quarters.
The Tigers struggled to connect when entering inside 50, which didn’t help their cause.
Fremantle sent a spare player, and sometimes two, to the stoppages which meant Richmond had an extra down back.
The spare man duty was generally rotated between Broad, Vlastuin and Short, and they saved the day on numerous occasions.
The Dockers kicked the first two goals of the third term, held Richmond goalless, and dragged the margin back to a solitary goal by three-quarter-time.
Richmond’s slick ball movement was challenged by Fremantle and the Dockers suffocated the Tigers around the ball, with the Tigers’ primemovers in Dustin Martin, Shai Bolton and Trent Cotchin unusually quiet and somewhat ineffectual.
An animated Damien Hardwick called for “Richmond Football’ in the final term and it took until the 10-minute mark for a classic Tigers’ goal.
Marlion Pickett was unfazed by the surrounding swarming pressure in his defensive 50, winning an important loose ball, feeding it out to Cotchin, who set Jason Castagna in motion with a well-weighted pass.
Castagna set off towards goal, he lobbed the ball into the path of Jake Aarts who sized up his options inside 50, steadied, took the responsibility upon himself, and kicked the goal on the run from 45-metres out.
The Dockers answered swiftly, before Riewoldt reinstated his side’s 13-point lead.
McIntosh loped towards forward 50 and dabbed the ball to a free Riewoldt on an acute angle in the left forward pocket.
Riewoldt, on the right-side for a right-footer saluted with his right index finger in the air and gave his side some much needed breathing space.
Richmond had wrenched the momentum back in its favour.
Pickett had a hand in the sealing goal after winning a free kick for putting his head in the hole at a stoppage and was awarded a 50-meter penalty, taking him to the paint of 50.
The wingman spread the ball to McIntosh who found a free Jack Higgins inside 50.
Higgins, back into the side this week, split the middle and pushed the Tigers’ lead to 21 points.
The wingmen held their width and teamed superbly throughout, combining for 37 disposals - Pickett 19 and Mclntosh 16 - 789 metres gained and 11 inside 50s.
The effort from Lynch in the opening term was matched by the tall in the last quarter as he launched high at the top of the square to mark with authority.
Lynch kicked his third with the final kick of the night, stretching the winning margin to 27 points.
RICHMOND 2.2 4.3 4.4 8.8 (56)
FREMANTLE 1.0 1.2 3.4 4.5 (29)
Richmond: Lynch 3, Aarts, Graham, Higgins, McIntosh, Riewoldt
Fremantle: Crowden 2, Taberner, Walters
Richmond: Short, Pickett, Graham, Houli, Lynch, Vlastuin
Fremantle: Acres, Serong, Fyfe, Brayshaw, Cerra