The VFL Tigers have asserted themselves as the team to beat in September, after prevailing by 53 points against the Frankston Dolphins at Skybus Stadium on Saturday afternoon, 18.15 (123) to 10.10 (70).
Richmond’s win, its 14th of the season, saw them leap Casey Demons on the ladder and take the minor premiership.
An 18-goal effort typified a true team performance, with 11 Tigers slotting a major.
It wasn’t all good news for the Tigers, as premiership forward Jacob Townsend was injured in a tackle during the first quarter. The tough Tiger didn’t return to the field for the remainder of the game.
Anthony Miles kicked off proceedings with a goal in the opening seconds of the first term, closely followed by a major from Ivan Soldo.
Miles continued Richmond’s campaign as he snagged his second of the day, before Blake Grewar had a turn in front of the big sticks.
A run into an open goal by utility Noah Balta cemented a dominant first term and a 27-point lead for the Tigers.
The home side struggled to keep up with Richmond’s pace as they continued to stack on the goals in the second quarter, thanks to Callum Moore, Corey Ellis, Jake Aarts and Gewar.
Frankston was held to just two majors as the Tigers dominated play. Richmond’s back line jelled tremendously, especially with vice-captain Hugh Beasley coming back into the mix, and their forward line was ferocious.
Richmond’s aerial presence was also solid, led by Connor Menadue as he soared to a leading six marks.
The scoreboard damage was far from over, as Richmond piled on seven unanswered goals in the third term, kudos to Tyson Stengle, Balta, Thomas Silvestro, Bailey Lambert, Lloyd, Coleman-Jones and Moore.
A special moment arrived in the third quarter when debutant Bailey Lambert slotted his first goal in the yellow and black to the roar of his teammates and the Tiger army.
Lambert, the son of 1991 Jack Dyer Medallist Craig, had an influential debut. The 19-year-old ball-magnet showed his appetite for the contest as he finished his opening game with 29 touches and 14 kicks.
VFL Development Coach Ryan Ferguson said Bailey provided great energy for the group.
“He’s got an uncanny ability to find the footy, a lot like his old man, he’s a hard edge and he just knows how to find the ball. It was good to see him kick a goal,” Ferguson said.
It was a slower final term for the Tigers, who rested key players ahead of finals next week. The Dolphins added seven goals to their tally but couldn’t make inroads on Richmond’s resounding first three quarters.
Ferguson said the side were able to set the tone early, particularly with their hunger to defend.
“We were able to use the ball and penetrate on the way back of the score,” Ferguson said.
“I think for the first three quarters we played the way we wanted to play, and then obviously in the last quarter we faded out a bit when we rested a few guys.”
The message in the post-match address was clear; recover well, and the season starts now.
Ferguson agreed, praising the side for a strong finish to the season but not resting on their laurels.
“Finishing top doesn’t do anything for you, top four you get a second chance, but you don’t get any silverware for it,” he said.
Star forward Sam Lloyd registered team-high disposals (37) and kicks (15), as well as 22 handballs and nine tackles.
“Lloyd started like a house on fire, he was really hard to quell for them and gave us a lot of penetration,” Ferguson said.
Midfielder Anthony Miles was also back in top form, showcasing his evasive skills as he amassed 32 touches and laid eight tackles.
The Tigers will face Williamstown in the qualifying final next Saturday September 1, 7.10pm at the Swinburne Centre.
RICHMOND 5.4 9.8 16.14 18.15 (123)
FRANKSTON 1.1 3.6 3.8 10.11 (70)
Richmond: Lloyd (2), Miles (2), Grewar (2), Soldo (2), Stengle (2), Moore (2), Balta (2), Lambert, Ellis, Aarts, Silvestro
Frankston: Wilson, Masterson, Downie (2), Fordham, Rich (5), Scargliarini