The Tigers turned up the heat in the race for the premiership flag on Thursday night.
In what was an absolute ripper of a contest, it was West Coast’s ill-discipline and Richmond’s accuracy in front of goal that ultimately cost the Eagles the game.
Ending their 8 game winning streak, the Eagles started their second away run of matches this season, losing 14.4 (88) to 9.7 (61) to a dominant Richmond side at the Metricon Stadium on Thursday night.
It was a close affair in the first quarter, with both teams only scoring once, but the Tigers turned up the pressure in the 3rd, scoring 6 goals to give them a 14 point lead going into the final quarter.
Richmond opened the scoring with Jack Graham showing off his dancing skills, to collect the footy off the deck, pirouette around Liam Ryan and hand the footy off to Trent Cotchin who set Tom Lynch up for his first goal of the night.
Luke Shuey made it onto the highlights reel, forgetting which foot to use when to kick the ball, but showed his leadership throughout the game racking up 27 disposals, second only to Andrew Gaff who made 32 disposals.
The midfield pair were also involved in the Eagle’s opener, moving up the pitch to put pressure on the Tigers, resulting in a clearance kick being intercepted by Gaff, who chipped through to Tim Kelly inside the 50, converting the Eagle’s first of the night.
The Eagles were dealt an early blow, with Jack Kennedy leaving the field after he took a knee to the head while contesting a mark with Noah Balta. Kennedy did not return to txhe field and is suspected to be ruled out of Tuesday night’s game against Essendon with a concussion.
In Kennedy’s absence, Adam Simpson moved flyin’ Liam Ryan up into the full forward position and it seemed to pay off. Supplied by Brendon Ah Chee, Ryan beat three Tigers defenders to take a mark right in front of the sticks to put the Eagles ahead at the start of the second quarter.
Both teams then exchanged goals, with Lynch taking Richmond’s second of the night, but the big man Nick Naitanui struck back, and again showed his class, weaving through a pack of tigers players, curving a kick around the last defender to bring the Eagles back into the game.
Unfortunately, this was short-lived, with the tigers coming back minutes later with Jake Aarts capitalising off a scrappy bit of defending.
But a great intercept from Brad Sheppard, stopped another dangerous Tigers counter-attack and spun the momentum the other way, to play in Liam Cripps who kept his cool to slot a major through for the Eagles.
Leading only by one goal, Richmond came out in the second half, striking early with Jack Riewoldt picking up a loose ball following a clanger from Jeremy McGovern. It seemed the Tigers had watched the tapes from last week and had formed a game plan to shut down McGovern.
Andrew Gaff got his second assist of the night, chipping up to Ryan who also got his second goal of the game, showing Adam Simpson that he’ll definitely be able to fill in up top if Josh Kennedy is out next week.
After the game, Simpson said, “he (Ryan) looked dangerous all night, and he really put his hand up and stood up for us. We might look at that next week.”
But it was Richmond’s pressure that forced the Eagles to make repeat infringements throughout the match, and a scuffed ball out on the full was the start of the Eagles worries. Dustin Martin stepped up to take the free-kick from the touchline and beautifully banana’d the ball into the goal from a tight angle.
The Tigers then mounted on the pressure, scoring 3 goals in 5 minutes, two of which came from free-kicks given inside the Eagle’s 50. Jason Castagna, Ivan Soldo, and Toby Nankervis piled on the points to turn up the heat on the Eagles.
Yet the West Coast still had some fight in them with Jack Darling getting on the score sheet twice late in the third quarter, taking his 400th AFL career goal.
Tom Lynch’s hattrick goal, pushed the Tigers slightly further in front, and an absolute monster of a pelt from Noah Balta shortly after was enough to seal the game.
Captain Luke Shuey was happy with the spirit of his side and after the game said he was “proud of the way we fronted up and had a crack,” but it was clear they were chasing a stronger side on the night, “Richmond were better at the contest and their pressure got to us.”
After this loss and West Coast’s previous away run of form, many will be doubting whether West Coast can play as well at home as they can away.
But Adam Simpson has suggested this is not the case “I don’t think us losing tonight had anything to do with playing in Queensland. We got beaten by a better side… If we are going to win anything we need to win away from home, so we’re not hiding away from that either.”
The loss means the Tigers overtake the Eagles in the premiership ladder, with the West Coast dropping down to 5th place, 2 points behind the Tigers.
The Eagles will look to bounce back on Tuesday against an Essendon side who staged an impressive comeback to overturn the Hawks late on in the fourth quarter.
West Coast Eagles: Ryan (3.1); Darling (3.0); Cripps (1.0); Kelly (1.0); Naituani (1.0); Ah Chee (0.1); Duggan (0.1); O’Neill (0.1); Williams (0.1).
Richmond: Lynch (3.0); Martin (2.0); Riewoldt (1.1); Aarts (1.0); Balta (1.0); Bolton (1.0); Castagna (1.0); Graham (1.0); Nankervis (1.0); Rioli (1.0).
Our Eagles MOTM: Liam Ryan.
Stand-Out Players: Liam Ryan; Andrew Gaff; Luke Shuey.
Injuries: Josh Kennedy (Concussion).