1. Was Richmond Short-changed in controversial deliberate rushed behind ruling?
Just before half-time the full, roaring ire of the Tiger faithful shook the MCG after an umpiring decision that is certain to be hotly debated. Bomber James Stewart bombed long to a vacant goalsquare, where the ball stopped dead little more than a metre out, and Tiger Jayden Short beat Josh Green to the ball before knocking it through. The resultant free kick gifted Green the easiest of goals, putting the Dons four points clear against the flow of play, to howls of protest from the yellow-and-black army. We await the post-mortems with interest. It must be said that Stewart could have avoided the whole issue by handballing to speedster Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, who might well have run the ball in to point-blank range. On that front, thankfully the Tigers got up.
2. Dusty's value continues to rise
Just days after Essendon confirmed its interest in Richmond superstar Dustin Martin as a restricted free agent at season's end, the bullocking midfielder enhanced his value with another brilliant performance against the Bombers. Last year Martin received a maximum six Brownlow votes in two outings against Essendon, and he appears to have another three in the bag after receiving the Yiooken Award for being best-afield. Martin gathered 30 possessions (13 contested), six clearances, seven tackles and a goal. His supreme effort and composure finally lifted the Tigers to a win in a close one.
3. Daniher versus Rance
The dream match-up of the Dreamtime blockbuster didn't quite eventuate – with Tigers defender Alex Rance generally obliterating Cale Hooker, and Bombers key forward Joe Daniher predominantly being opposed to David Astbury – but we were still treated to some fascinating contests between the star duo. The in-form Daniher had three goals on the board by the 10-minute mark of the second term, prompting Rance to troubleshoot on him at various stages. Most notably, they had an epic duel in the Essendon goalsquare early in the last quarter, with Daniher flying high from behind and Rance also attempting to mark. Both players got good purchase on the ball but the umpire called a ball-up, deciding against awarding the ball to the man in front.
Tiger Alex Rance and Bomber Joe Daniher didn't rate the ball-up decision. Picture: AFL Photos
4. Jittery Jack finds something late
Tigers spearhead Jack Riewoldt is one of the most clinical exponents of the set shot, as he showed late in the first term, so it was a shock to see the normally ice-cool forward fluff two elementary chances either side of half-time. Late in the second term Riewoldt had a chance to level the scores but hooked badly from 35m; and early in the third quarter, after a change of footwear, he could have put the Tigers eight points up but again missed to the left, this time from directly in front, just 20m out. Then minutes later, a bad bounce robbed Riewoldt of a miraculous goal off his left foot while lying on his back. Just when it appeared it just wasn't his night, Riewoldt put the Tigers six points up when he nailed a set shot from 50m midway through the final term. Richmond wasn't headed thereafter.
Jack Riewoldt had a tough night in front of the big sticks. Picture: AFL Photos
5. Tigers absorb early Bomber blitz
When a razor-sharp Essendon flew out of the blocks with the first three goals inside the opening six minutes, it seemed Richmond's three successive heartbreaking losses had finally taken their toll. The game soon took on a completely different complexion, however, as the Tigers lifted their work-rate and the Bombers started to miss targets. Richmond kicked the next three goals before Essendon responded with three of the next four to lead by eight points at the first change, with Brendon Goddard on fire with 13 touches and two goals.