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VFL Tigers overrun by Bombers

Richmond youngster Nathan Drummond made his return to the football field on Saturday. Photos: Matt Johnson.

Richmond’s VFL side was overrun by Essendon in their annual Dreamtime clash, with the Bombers saluting by 23 points to claim the Sir Doug Nicholls Cup.

In biting conditions at Punt Road Oval, no more than a goal separated the sides at any change, as the Bombers clung to a two-point lead at the final change and charged home to win 9.13 (67) to 5.14 (44).

VIDEO: Drummond returns to footy

For the hoard of Tiger faithful that bunched under the Jack Dyer Stand, the tight and dour game didn’t allow for much clapping and cheering, as both sides defended brilliantly.

The Tigers began as they finished in their pre-bye win over North Ballarat by squeezing the Bombers early, with the ball rarely leaving Richmond’s forward-half in the initial stages of the opening term.

The Tigers kicked 0.6 before registering their first major and didn’t cash-in on their dominance, as the scores were locked at 12 points apiece at quarter-time.  

A key-focus for Richmond heading into the game was to restrict the Bombers’ ability to control the ball through uncontested marks and also for the Tigers’ big men to provide a fierce contest in the air.

When the pair met in the pre-season, Essendon dominated Richmond in the aerial contests with 18–3 contested marks, a stat the Tigers could ill-afford to repeat.

In a pleasing sign of the Tigers’ defensive improvement and development, they were able to restrict the Bombers to a mere four contested marks and take 11 of their own.

The cornerstones for this turnaround were key Tiger talls Liam McBean and Ivan Maric who clunked four contested marks apiece and provided a consistent aerial presence throughout the evening.

Although McBean went goalless for the night, his ability to continually provide a target and his work rate between the arcs was exceptional as he finished with 16 disposals, ten marks and three inside 50s.

Richmond senior coach Craig McRae applauded his side’s ability to play the game on its terms in the opening quarter, and reassured, if it stuck the course, the opportunities up forward will come to fruition.

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Both side’s shared patches of dominance in the second term and as the game looked to be slightly tilting in the Bombers’ favour, Richmond reversed the momentum with two late goals in the shadows of half time.

The third term was an arm wrestle, with the Bombers edging clear in contested ball and held a two-point lead heading into the final term.

Essendon landed the crucial first blow of the last quarter and banged on four-goals-to-one in the final 20 minutes to run out deserved winners.

Richmond was patient and methodical with the ball, recording 105 uncontested marks and restricting the Bombers to 80, but was out tackled 75–56 and out ran with Essendon +41 in handball receives.

 The game marked the long-awaited return of budding Richmond midfielder Nathan Drummond who competed in his first-half of football in 13 months and picked-up where he left-off in 2015.

Drummond slotted back in seamlessly as a rebounding defender and once he swiftly reacquainted himself the pace of the game, he found the ball at will.

The returning Tiger finished with 14 first-half possessions, along with five marks and three inside 50s, donning the tracksuit after halftime and will look to ramp-up his game time in the coming weeks.

Another Tiger on the road back from injury is elusive and evasive midfielder Reece Conca, whose class and poise in the contest shone once again in an encouraging display.

Conca pressed his claim for senior selection, finishing with 26 disposals, seven clearances and eight tackles in a near best-afield performance.

Mabior Chol showed extreme promise as a key-back, keeping Sam Grimley to one goal, in what proved to be an inspired decision by the coaching staff.

Other Tigers to impress were Jacob Ballard and Jason Castagna who finished with 20 disposals each and continually provided invaluable energy and drive in the icy conditions.

Richmond heads to Pirahna Park this Sunday, June 5 to take on Coburg, as the Tigers will look to bounce back and record their third win of the season.