IF 'remarkable' was the word for Saturday, then Sunday's VFL word of the day would have to be 'unbelievable'.
Just when we thought we'd seen everything, Corey Rich – in his 50th VFL game no less – became a hero in the most unlikely of fashions to help Williamstown escape with a heartstopping four-point win over a desperately unlucky Coburg at Piranha Park.
BIG COMEBACKS APLENTY All the reports from Saturday's VFL action
After the Lions had fought back from 24 points down at three quarter-time to lead by nine entering time-on, Rich produced a classy pass to set up Josh Pickess, then found himself backpedalling towards goal as Teia Miles snapped a kick forward out of a pack from 45m.
He tripped over but still had the awareness to cling onto a chest mark while sitting down at the top of the goalsquare, and his second major regained a lead that the Seagulls held onto gamely for the last six minutes against a desperate opponent to move back into the top eight.
It was a dramatic climax to another Sunday afternoon classic where both teams cracked in with the intensity of a final.
The match was dominated by the respective centre half-back Jacks, with Jack Leslie impassable in the Seagulls' back half against Peter McEvoy, and Jack Maibaum similarly influential at the other end against Nick Rodda.
Leslie took eight marks and Maibaum six, but both would have had double-figure spoils as McEvoy was held to two goals and Rodda none, although he played up the ground and rarely ventured close to goal.
Their right-hand men – Charlie Dean and Harry Nolan – were also outstanding, particularly in the first half as the teams were restricted to just two goals each.
The game broke open after the in the third quarter as Williamstown’s strong midfield found its feet, led by Michael Hibberd (35 disposals), Nick Mellington and Miles, who moved up from his usual role in defence to set up a six-goal run and what looked like a matchwinning 30-point lead 23 minutes into the term.
But the Lions are building a reputation as fast finishers, and the excellent Charlie Thompson gave them hope with a late goal and they added the first five of the last term to look likely winners with Tom McKenzie and Jacob Ballard also getting busy.
Unfortunately, the close-finish demons came back to haunt them and they lost a fourth game this season by four points or less – you can’t question their fitness, passion or heart, and when they find a way to get over the line in a close game they have the capacity to take the next step into the top half of the ladder.
Tom Downie and Nathan Mullenger-McHugh had a terrific battle in the ruck, with the much bigger Downie easily winning the hitouts 53-29, but both men being influential around the ground.
Richmond put a severe dent in Frankston's outstanding season and ruined Josh Newman's 100th-game celebrations with a 16-point win at Skybus Stadium.
The Tigers took control with a four-goal burst in just five minutes midway through the first term and refused to surrender the advantage for the rest of the day, even when the Dolphins drew within two points in the shadows of three quarter-time.
Richmond kicked the first three goals of the last term to reassert its authority, and while it still needs a miracle to make the eight, there is a pulse.
Frankston, by contrast, has sat inside the eight for most of the season and is still there, but with only one match to play in the final three rounds the Dolphins no longer have their fate in their own hands.
The luckless Bailey Lambert was in a moonboot by half-time with an ankle injury in another blow for the Dolphins.
Richmond had contributors all over the ground, with in-form forward Noah Cumberland, Hugo Ralphsmith and Cam Olden causing headaches with three goals each, Patrick Naish, Will Martyn, Derek Eggmolesse-Smith and Riley Collier-Dawkins winning plenty of the ball, and big man Samson Ryan dominating with 39 hitouts and two goals.
Newman was best on ground in a losing team with an inspired performance yielding 30 disposals, six marks, eight tackles, 10 clearances and nine inside-50s, while Brodie McLaughlin and Jack Mentha kicked three goals each and Nathan Freeman overcame a slow start to finish with 33 disposals.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 1
SATURDAY, JULY 31
Sandringham 9.6 (60) lost to Carlton 14.25 (109) (Match Centre)
North Melbourne 11.11 (77) def Port Melbourne 8.12 (60) (Match Centre)
Collingwood 9.6 (60) lost to Box Hill Hawks 18.15 (123) (Match Centre)
Casey Demons 10.9 (69) lost to Western Bulldogs 16.10 (106) (Match Centre)
Northern Bullants 10.11 (71) lost to Werribee 14.17 (101) (Match Centre)
Gold Coast 1.2 (8) v Southport 1.0 (6) postponed
Aspley v Essendon postponed
Brisbane Lions v Sydney postponed
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