RICHMOND was in cruise control on Sunday afternoon.
Having set the benchmark for the best part of five years, the reigning premiers know how to manage a game and did it to perfection in a comfortable 29-point stroll over Hawthorn at the MCG.
The Tigers did their damage early, claiming a sizeable advantage by quarter-time and then barely raising a sweat in holding the Hawks at bay to lay the groundwork for the 11.12 (78) to 7.7 (49) win.
HAWKS v TIGERS Full match coverage and stats
A late flourish, masterminded by the individual brilliance of Dustin Martin (28 disposals, one goal) and the constant threat of Jack Riewoldt (nine disposals, four goals), then put the finishing touches on a leisurely afternoon in the Melbourne sun.
Hawthorn, for its part, had competed admirably for the best part of three quarters. Tom Mitchell (37 disposals, four clearances) was workmanlike in the midfield, while Changkuoth Jiath (25 disposals, eight marks) was again commanding in the backline.
But the Hawks only had themselves to blame for a slow and sloppy start, one they couldn't make amends for afterwards.
While you couldn't fault Hawthorn's effort and application, you couldn't say the same for its skill and execution. Richmond kicked three of its opening four goals direct from turnovers, taking a 21-point lead into the first change.
By the time the Hawks cleaned up their act, a holding pattern had broken out. Neither side was able to string together consecutive majors for well over a half of action, with the Tigers managing to keep their marginal advantage intact.
It also kept Hawthorn at arm's length. Try as it might to reel in a Richmond side below its best, it failed to bridge the gap to anything short of 17 points after half-time and couldn't force the Tigers out of their comfort zone.
Martin then struck when the time was right. Twice in quick succession in the game's final quarter, he put the ball on a plate for Riewoldt to convert as Richmond stretched its lead into an unassailable one to kill off the contest.
Hard to split a Tiger from a Hawk
There was little Hawthorn nor Richmond could do to avoid a colour-clash on Sunday, but the similarity in jumpers made for tricky passages throughout the game. The Hawks conceded 21 of their 28 points in the opening term direct from turnover, but they might have had a fair excuse for a few of their errors. Both sides appeared to find it hard to differentiate their teammates from their opponents on certain occasions, with Changkuoth Jiath handballing direct to Kamdyn McIntosh to open the scoring in the second term, before Harry Morrison converted from an uncharacteristically stray Shane Edwards handball soon after. Separating the jumper colours of each side made for a difficult afternoon, with the mistakes continuing after half-time.
Mitchell's minimal metres
There had been a lot made of how many – or, rather, how few – metres Tom Mitchell gained during his prolific 2018 Brownlow Medal season. And on Sunday, it was again the feature of a quirky stat. Despite racking up 20 touches in the first half, the most of any player on the ground, Mitchell ranked dead last for metres gained. His 20 disposals had gained just 16 metres, with even Dylan Grimes (three disposals) outdoing him (21 metres). Not a noted territory player, Mitchell thrives in releasing his teammates into space. Indeed, he did plenty of that amid a 37-possession game where he continued a strong start to the campaign following an interrupted pre-season.
Bad luck for young Hawks
It was a wretched day for Hawthorn's last two first-round draft picks. The ever-impressive Will Day was forced to be substituted out of Sunday's encounter in the third quarter, having landed awkwardly following a heavy Josh Caddy tackle. Day appeared to hurt his lower leg, limping straight from the field under the assistance of trainers and failing to return from the rooms after three-quarter time. It added to a worrying situation in a VFL practice match earlier in the morning, where the club's No.6 draft selection from last December, Denver Grainer-Barras, appeared to hurt his knee while playing for Box Hill. The prognosis on both youngsters is not yet clear.
HAWTHORN 1.1 5.2 6.3 7.7 (49)
RICHMOND 4.4 8.7 9.8 11.12 (78)
Hawthorn: Breust 2, Brockman 2, Koschitzke, Morrison, O'Brien
Richmond: Riewoldt 4, Lynch 2, Castagna 2, Balta, Aarts, Martin
Hawthorn: Mitchell, Jiath, Hardwick, Impey, Phillips
Richmond: Martin, Cotchin, Riewoldt, Short, Bolton, Prestia
Hawthorn: Day (ankle)
Hawthorn: Scrimshaw (replaced Day)
Richmond: Ross (Unused)
Crowd: 41,051 at the MCG