It may have been an early morning VFL practice match in late March, but you wouldn’t have guessed that by the way Richmond and Box Hill attacked the contest on Sunday at the Swinburne Centre.
A sometimes-fiery affair ended with the Tigers 10 points to the good, after a stirring second-half comeback, which saw them prevail, 12.16 (88) to 12.6 (78).
Callum Coleman-Jones was a colossus up forward, finishing with four majors, while some Maurice Rioli brilliance sparked the post half-time Tiger resurgence.
A tough, physical and high-intensity opening term saw both sides enjoy patches of positive momentum and capitalise up forward.
The sound of skin-clapping bumps and tackles reverberated around the terrace houses lining Punt Road and it was game on from the outset.
The Tigers started the morning in the right fashion; locking the ball in their forward half, creating turnovers and capitalising on the scoreboard.
Hugo Ralphsmith opened his and Richmond’s account after plucking a strong contested intercept mark on the 50-metre arc.
Ralphsmith strikes you as a player that knows his strengths and capabilities and he kicked his set-shot sweetly and watched it sail through.
Box Hill answered back after the restart before Coleman-Jones slotted back-to-back goals.
The 21-year-old ruckman was intent on using his sizeable frame to his advantage, standing tall and sturdy and drawing two forward-50 free kicks, converting both into goals.
The Hawks them slammed on three goals to end the first quarter six points in front.
Ryan Garthwaite had a tough evening against Carlton and sought to rectify that by catapulting himself into every forward-half contest he could.
Garthwaite and Coleman-Jones were strong beacons up forward and instilled confidence in the players up the field to kick the ball long in their direction.
Wangaratta premiership player and Melbourne Cricket Club all-rounder, Brad Melville was slick and industrious through the midfield and looks comfortable at the level.
Melville was clean below his knees, covered the ground superbly, and willed himself from contest-to-contest.
The highlight of the first half was the midfielder’s slicing run through the heart of Punt Road Oval, where he then weighted the ball onto the chest of a leading Sam Tucker, who kicked truly.
Melville and Tucker would again combine successfully, this time in the last quarter, as the Tigers surged home.
Box Hill consistently found free targets inside 50 in the second team and extended its margin to 14 points by half-time.
At times the Tigers were a little rushed with their disposal between the arcs and going inside 50, which led to turnovers and opened holes in their usually water-tight defence.
After Garthwaite slid and clung onto a mark inside 50, tempers began to fray.
Garthwaite was marched to the goal-line where he pumped the ball into the net behind the goals, then things became a little undisciplined.
The result was a goal to Box Hill after a 50-metre penalty at the restart, as cooler heads were required to extinguish the anger and frustration felt by both sides.
Patrick Naish made sure Box Hill didn’t get a run on as he mopped up his miskick, guiding through a right-foot checkside goal.
Maurice Rioli then provided a spark.
With the ball bubbling inside 50, Rioli trapped a Hawks’ defender in a ripping tackle and was justly rewarded. He was then mobbed by his teammates, drawing a raucous applause after kicking his first goal at Punt Road in the Yellow & Black.
Samson Ryan’s performances are growing as the weeks tick by and the budding ruckman shone again, especially with his efforts up forward in the second half.
Ryan was a key focal point when stationed in attack and kicked two second-half goals and had five shots on goal for the game.
His first major stretched the Tigers’ lead in the third term and his second sealed the win in the last quarter.
Coleman-Jones “played big” all game and is developing a knack of kicking goals in quick succession.
The burgeoning big man looks confident within himself and is starting to command the ball inside 50 and is delivering on that demand for confidence from his teammates.
His back-to-back goals, along with Ryan’s in the final term sealed the come-from-behind win.
Ben Miller stiffened up the defence in the second half, outpointing his direct opponent on multiple occasions, and providing rebound from deep in defence which the Tigers started to convert into meaningful forward-50 entries.
Mabior Chol showed maturity and leadership with a calm second-half performance as well.
Chol was springy at the centre bounces and crafty with his ball use in transition, he also took a towering intercept mark, showcasing his impressive armoury.
RICHMOND 3.2 4.8 8.11 12.16 (88)
BOX HILL 4.2 7.4 9.4 12.6 (78)
Richmond: Coleman-Jones 4, Tucker 2, Ryan 2, Rioli, Naish, Garthwaite, Ralphsmith