Richmond VFL fended off a fast-finishing Box Hill on Sunday afternoon at Box Hill City Oval to register a gutsy 14-point win on the road.
The Hawks slammed through six goals to two in a frenetic final term as they strived to celebrate favourite son David Mirra’s 150th game in style.
But the Tigers held their nerve, with a late goal to Callum Coleman-Jones sealing a 14.10 (94) to 12.8 (80) win.
Richmond had plenty going against it in the last quarter. They were down on rotations with the slither of an upset fuelling the reigning premiers on their home deck. But the Tigers’ trust and connection served them well and ensured victory.
With the Hawks charging and Richmond clinging to a two-goal lead, Dan Butler extracted the ball from congestion, flicked the turbo switch and chipped the ball over to Oleg Markov, who handed it to Callum Coleman-Jones, who strolled in unopposed and goaled.
Box Hill methodically pierced the ball from its back half in the last quarter, splitting Richmond’s set up behind the ball.
A run of four goals in the final term injected hope into the hearts of the Box Hill faithful and laid seeds of doubt in the Tiger Army.
However, as the pressure rating rose, so did the trust and confidence of the Tigers. They controlled the tempo of the game as the Hawks eventually ran out of time.
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The game was littered with intriguing one-on-one duels, none bigger than the gladiatorial ruck battle between the returning Toby Nankervis and Hawk, Marc Pittonet.
The game couldn’t have started much better for ‘Big Nank’. The premiership ruckman won the opening centre clearance after roving his own tapwork, then slammed the ball onto his right boot, sending the ball inside 50.
Nankervis then delivered a trademark bone-crunching tackle inside Richmond’s forward 50, which would have warmed the hearts of the Tiger Army.
The cult hero drew further applause as he goaled after the quarter-time siren, with the Tigers mobbing their much-loved teammate.
The inclusion of Nankervis had a ripple effect, with budding big-man, Callum Coleman-Jones spending more time in attack, looking razor sharp from the outset.
Coleman-Jones led with authority and his hands were crisp and clean.
With Nankervis managed in the second half, Coleman-Jones assumed the mantle of No.1 once again and took on one of the most imposing ruck duos in the VFL, Hawthorn’s Pittonet and Jonathon Ceglar.
Coleman-Jones more than held his own, nearly taking a contender for mark of the year in the final term and exploded forward to kick the match winner.
Richmond trapped the ball in its forward half to great effect in the first quarter, and was able to capitalise on the scoreboard, with Oleg Markov jagging two goals.
Markov was locked in an athletic duel with Hawks’ defender, Changkuoth Jiath, with both exerting their influence on the contest.
The dynamic Tiger forward netted three goals in the opening half and is looking more at home in attack as the weeks roll on.
Richmond started the second quarter in tremendous fashion as Dan Butler showcased his skills, soccering through a back-heel goal on the goal-line.
Butler showed that he wasn’t a one-trick pony, as he volleyed through his second major in the third term.
The Hawks hit back as the Tigers overused the ball in its front half, with three goals in quick succession to cut the margin to nine points midway through the quarter.
Markov swung the momentum back the Tigers’ way as he eased through his third major.
The Tigers needed a dose of composure when entering their forward 50, which was provided by Jake Aarts.
Aarts marked strongly in front of his opponent on the paint of the forward 50 and could have set his sights on the goals. Instead, he spotted Connor Menadue free in a mountain of space.
Menadue split the middle and steadied the ship in the shadows of half-time.
The goals dried up in the third term as the ball pinged between the arcs, with neither side able to execute when going inside 50.
It was a game of ducks and drakes, with the Hawks attempting to control the ball by foot and march it up the field, as Richmond looked to surge the ball forward by hand.
Menadue broke the drought, as he goaled from an acute angle beyond the arc, sparking a three-goal run for Richmond.
Markov sent his fourth goal through the middle soon after and then Butler’s check-side volley made it three in a row.
Butler’s goal extended the margin to 37 points at three quarter-time, which was cut to 14 points by the time the final siren sounded, as Box Hill stormed home with six of the last eight goals.
RICHMOND 5.5 8.6 12.7 14.10 (94)
BOX HILL 2.2 5.4 6.6 12.8 (80)
Richmond: Markov (4), Butler (2), Menadue (2), Coleman-Jones, Grewar, Naish, Nankervis, Silvestro, Townsend
Box Hill: Walker (5), Ross (2), Adduci, Cousins, Miles, Moore, Pittonet