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Chol leads VFL Tigers to thrilling win

VFL R8: Team song Watch the boys sing the song following the Round 8 win over Essendon.

“Crisis creates opportunity.”

A phrase that has been used extensively given the injury woes at Tigerland this year rang true again on Saturday afternoon.

Mabior Chol was presented the opportunity of carrying the mantle of No.1 ruckman when Richmond VFL battled Essendon in its Dreamtime clash at the Swinburne Centre.

Chol carried Richmond to a tension-filled three-point win over the Bombers, prevailing 10.10 (70) to 10.7 (67) with Punt Road Oval shrouded in darkness.

The opportunity arose for Chol after Callum Coleman-Jones was elevated for his AFL debut just a few drop punts away at the MCG, later in the evening.

The 22-year-old rookie grabbed the opportunity with both hands and rose to the challenge accordingly.

The athletic ruckman was justly rewarded, snaring the Sir Doug Nicholls Medal for best on ground honours.

Richmond and Essendon traded blows for most of the day in a heated and, at times, fiery encounter.

The fact the final term was played in near darkness added to the mystique and heightened the tension and anxiety of the crowd.

The Bombers threw everything at the Tigers in the final term, with the electric livewire, Irving Mosquito nearly snatching victory from the home side.

Richmond needed a calmness in the dying minutes, as Essendon looked dangerous when the game was chaotic and Chol was the man who brought serenity to the mayhem.

The Sir Doug Nicholls medallist stood tall down the line multiple times, be it intercepting the Bombers’ attacking thrusts or providing a get-out option for his side.

With the light fading, the Tigers held on for a memorable win.

From the opening bounce, Chol set the scene with a desirable blend of athleticism and aggression, mixed with a handy dash of potency up forward.

Chol kicked-off the goal scoring for the day.

The smooth-moving left-footer led and marked strongly to slot his 15th goal for the year, and the Tigers’ opening major of the game.

Going into the game, the Tigers sat atop the VFL ladder, with the Bombers nipping at their heels in second place.

The Tigers were staunch and miserly in the opening term and looked set to hold another opponent to a goalless quarter, before a sloppy kick exiting defensive 50 led to a Bombers’ goal.

Midfield bull Jacob Townsend roved a forward-50 pack superbly, to snap Richmond’s next, before a duo of Richmond VFL workhorses slotted two classy majors to round out the quarter.

Billy Coates steeled himself and nailed his set-shot from the Richmond Station pocket, preceding Lachy Street letting fly with a one-step drop punt from 45, much to the delight of his teammates.

The second quarter began sweetly for the home side, with two quick goals to swingman, Ben Miller and the flint-hard, Jake Aarts.

Dan Butler’s incessant pressure led to Richmond winning the ball back on the Jack Dyer Stand wing, setting in motion a surging wave of Tigers, with Jacob Townsend finding Miller on the lead.

Miller has enjoyed stints up forward so far this year, but started deep in attack, a position which he held for the entire game.

The developing big man slotted the goal and pushed the Tigers’ lead to 24 points early in the second term.

Jake Aarts then flew unflinchingly back with the flight of the ball, dragging down a courageous mark inside 50, and slotted his first for the game.

Richmond was cashing in on its early momentum in the second quarter and looked set to pull away from the Bombers.
Essendon had other ideas.

The visitors found their spark and got under the skin of the ladder leaders, slamming on three of the last four goals of the half, cutting the margin to just 12 points at half-time.

The siren sounded, which initiated a fracas - it was abundantly clear, the game was set for an edgy crescendo.

Scoring dried up in the third term, with both sides goalless after 15 minutes, until the returning Jack Graham launched at the ball deep in attack, plucking a strong overhead grab.

Graham eased through the goal, his second of the game, and the Tigers arrested back the ascendency.

Essendon hit back again, before Aarts cruised in and goaled from close range, the Tigers led by 23 points at three-quarter-time, but you felt the lead was going to be tough to hold in the final term.

And it was.

As the light diminished swiftly, the Bombers slammed through the opening goal of the final term, turning its flicker of hope into a raging fire of belief.

Aarts sensed the urgency and injected himself into the contest once again, springing into action, snatching a squaring ball from the Bombers, then passing to Butler, who scooted in for his sole major.

It would be Richmond’s only goal of the final term, as Essendon surged forward at will, nailing the final three goals of the game, eventually falling short by three points.

The Tigers once again showcased their character, resilience and trust in one another to remain disciplined and connected until the end.

RICHMOND    4.2       7.3       9.9       10.10 (70)

ESSENDON    1.2       5.3       6.4       10.7 (67)

Goal Kickers:

Richmond: Graham (2), Aarts (2), Butler, Chol, Coates, Miller, Street, Townsend

Essendon: Baguley (2), Mosquito (2), Bowman, Ham, Heppell, Hocking, Younan, Zerk-Thatcher