In what has become somewhat of the tradition before the AFL season opener, Richmond and Carlton met each other at the Swinburne Centre for a VFL practice match on Thursday.
The Blues were sharp and organised from the outset as the youthful Tigers fought and scrapped, nearly sneaking in front in the third term, but were ultimately surpassed by the visitors, 13.13 (91) to 9.9 (63).
Punt Road Oval had the look of a lawn bowls green and Carlton brought some heat around the ball under the warming autumn sun.
The Blues also showcased some sizzling ball movement and were sprightly inside 50, with Eddie Betts kicking two opening-quarter goals.
The game was intense and physical, with the ball pinging from end to end as the decreased number of stoppages due to the standing the mark rule made it hard for the players to take a breath.
Carlton looked a little cleaner and calmer with ball in hand and capitalised forward of centre.
However, the Tigers showed a thirst and hunger for the contest.
Thomson Dow was sharp through the midfield with his hair-trigger handballs setting up attacking chains from congestion.
Dow’s ability to roll back and help defensive stood out also, as well as his gut-running in transition.
Riley Collier-Dawkins and Dow in the centre square was a look to the future for the Tiger faithful peering through the cyclone fence bordering Punt Road.
Samson Ryan picked up where he left off last week, snapping a handy goal in the second term.
Playing senior football in the QAFL has enhanced Ryan’s ability to impact the game both defensively and offensively for a young ruckman.
Ryan finished the game with an equal-team-high three majors and built on his game against Essendon from last week.
Collier-Dawkins was robust around stoppages and dialled-in defensively when the ball was in dispute, thwarting Carlton’s ball movement between the arcs and winning the ball back for the Tigers.
Richmond was held goalless in the opening term, not through lack of effort, but more so the connection inside 50.
The Tigers began to flip that script in the second term, as they were able to trap the Blues in their front-half and capitalise on turnovers.
VFL-listed forward, Riley Loton was rewarded for keeping his head over the ball and slotted his set-shot, opening Richmond’s goal tally for the night.
Carlton hit back immediately but the Tigers didn’t drop their heads, instead they turned up the heat.
A 30-second period of sustained, suffocating Richmond pressure led to the Tigers’ second major, as Patrick Naish put the ball into the path of Callum Coleman-Jones, and the fourth-year big-man did the rest.
Coleman-Jones rose high, plucking a crucial contested mark and more importantly, converted.
Ryan’s second goal meant the Tigers went into half-time just 17 points in arrears after winning the second term.
Richmond burst out of the blocks in the third quarter, with Ryan’s quick thinking getting the Tigers off to the perfect start following some blitz pressure from Maurice Rioli.
Rioli dialled up the pressure inside 50 early in the third term and had the Blues’ defenders constantly looking over their shoulders.
Coleman-Jones enjoyed back-to-back goals, with some Mabior Chol class leading to his second for the quarter and third for the game.
Chol snaffled the ball out of the ruck, sliced a path through the centre square and popped the ball into the waiting arms of Coleman-Jones.
Naish was the second Tiger to kick back-to-back goals in the third term, dragging Richmond to an even keel with Carlton.
Naish’s first was on the back of some slick transition, as the smooth-moving wingman tracked the boundary at the Brunton Avenue end and eased through the goal.
His second goal levelled the score, as he curled home a right-foot check-side from congestion inside 50.
Hugo Ralphsmith was another who started to assert his authority on the contest, providing flash and flair off half-back.
Ralphsmith’s reading of the play is something that catches the eye, as he continually finds himself in the right spot to either intercept mark or execute a well-timed spoil.
Bigoa Nyuon showed promise manning a key defensive post and displays courage and calmness under the high ball.
Nyuon reads the ball in flight extremely well, keeps his head and his feet in contested situations, and his slick by foot.
The Tigers fought tooth and nail to the final siren but were overrun by the Blues.