Richmond VFL returned home and to the winners’ list after outlasting a determined Werribee outfit, recording a character-building 17-point win.
The Tigers fought tooth and nail in the final term with one fit player on the bench, grinding out an 11.15 (81) to 10.4 (64) win.
Richmond was led superbly by premiership Tiger, Josh Caddy whose physicality and class with ball in hand shone through the gloom.
Caddy finished the game with 26 disposals, laid eight tackles and slotted two crucial goals
The Tigers’ win was dripping with character and selflessness, personified by a single act by the tough as teak, Tom Silvestro.
With Richmond clinging to what turned out to be a match-winning lead, Werribee blasted the ball forward and looked set to score - enter Silvestro.
Werribee had the outnumber, with Caddy being held at bay, but Silvestro blitzed the ball with reckless abandon and cannoned into two opponents, the thunderous clap echoed throughout Punt Road Oval.
Silvestro followed up the effort with a smother, allowing the cavalry to arrive and halt a Werribee attacking thrust, sealing the win for the Tigers.
The match was sitting on a knife’s edge at three-quarter time, with the hint of an upset on the cards, and when Werribee kicked the opening goal of the final term, that hint grew into a high possibility.
Richmond was hit-and-miss in front of goal for most of the day and needed a steadier, and up stood classy forward, Jake Aarts.
The return of Aarts should not be understated as he enhanced the hardened edge in the Tigers’ front half and defensive energy around the ball, which his steadying goal was born from.
Aarts was proactive at a forward-50 stoppage, swooped on the ball and was driven in the back, won the free kick and then calmed the nerves to kick truly.
Another premiership Tiger then bobbed up, as Dan Butler stalked a laconic Werribee defender, trapped him in the goalsquare and kicked the goal from the resulting free kick.
Werribee hit back soon after, dragging the margin back to 16 points, until Jacob Townsend snuffed out any further thought of an upset when he crumbed and goaled late in the final term.
The visitors kicked the final goal of the game, but Richmond’s will and experience dragged it over the line.
The early-rising Tiger Army descended on the Swinburne Centre as Richmond locked horns with Werribee on a misty Sunday morning.
The few that braved the chilly winter’s morning were enthusiastic, kitted-up junior footballers, thumping their Sherrins into the pavement, accompanied by bleary parents finding solace in their coffees.
Debutant Lewis Diggins would have felt that same enthusiasm and excitement as he donned the Yellow and Black for the first time.
Caddy was razor-sharp on return and seemed to relish the early start.
The bullocking premiership midfielder was alert and dynamic around the stoppages and exerted his physical prowess at will.
He chalked up healthy numbers in the opening term - 10 disposals, four tackles and the opening major.
Werribee, guided by Mark “Choco” Williams, looked intent to keep the flow of the game in constant motion, keen on dismantling and disrupting the Tigers’ defensive mechanics.
The visitors stuck to the task and had the game on their terms for the first part on the opening term.
Richmond slowly started to gain some ascendancy around the ball and ramped up its pressure rating.
Three goals in quick succession to Lachy Street, Dan Butler and Steve Morris gave the Tigers some breathing space on the scoreboard come quarter time.
The ball pinged between the arcs for the majority of the second term which played into Werribee’s hands.
Richmond had patches of dominance in the second term, with Jack Higgins and Caddy combining for its only goal of the quarter.
Caddy’s goal pushed the margin out to 24 points, and the Tigers looked to build on that lead heading into the main break.
However, Werribee was staunch in defence, holding Richmond at bay, as the hosts squandered a handful of chances in front of goal.
Such is the trend in modern footy, Werribee launched its attacks from the back half, sneaking in behind Richmond’s defensive press and slamming through two late goals.
The Tigers’ lead was sliced to 12 points, after a patchy opening half.
Billy Coates and Liam Baker got the Tigers’ second half off on the right foot, with two quick goals extending the lead to 26 points.
Werribee then kicked three of the next four goals cutting the margin to 16 points at the final change.
The fellow finals aspirant was imperious in the air at times in its back-half, thwarting Richmond’s forward-50 entries and then bouncing off half-back with vigour.
The Tigers were able to slow the ball movement of Werribee, win the territory battle and dominated large parts of the game as a result, without capitalising to maximum effect.
RICHMOND 4.5 5.9 8.14 11.15 (81)
WERRIBEE 2.1 4.3 7.4 10.4 (64)
Richmond: Caddy (2), Butler (2), Aarts, Baker, Coates, Grewar, Morris, Street, Townsend
Werribee: Coughlan (2), Kemp (2), Brew, Declase, Gribble, Maishman, Munro, Riccardi