IF SUNDAY was billed as a warm-up to September, it quickly felt like the real thing.
And if the occasion acted as the perfect chance to gain an early mental advantage over a genuine premiership rival, mark this six-point win down as a crucial edge for Richmond.
TIGERS IN AN EPIC Full match coverage and stats
In front of a vocal MCG crowd, with the intensity of the contest dialled up a notch, you wouldn't be surprised if this round 22 match-up was replicated again on September 28.
If it is, the Tigers would gladly accept a similar result.
The neutrals would gladly accept similar entertainment, as well.
The manner of the victory might fray the nerves for supporters, though. Having fallen five goals down in the first quarter, Richmond was forced to spend the entirety of the match edging its way back into the contest to secure a dramatic 13.10 (88) to 13.4 (82) win.
That comeback was eventually complete in the 29th minute of the final term, when Jack Riewoldt's classy off-balance snap around the body proved the difference in an epic battle.
Dustin Martin was outstanding in dragging the Tigers back into the contest, delivering a performance reflective of his 2017 best with 35 disposals, six clearances and a goal.
WATCH Dusty delivers at the 'G
Shane Edwards and Dion Prestia were also fantastic in the midfield, while Bachar Houli and Dylan Grimes – the latter battling an ankle injury – provided a sensational rear-guard stand.
There were plenty of positives despite the defeat for West Coast, who had shot out of the blocks before nearly returning serve in the tense final moments of the contest.
Elliot Yeo (26 disposals, 15 clearances, eight tackles) was the standout in midfield, while Shannon Hurn (24 disposals, 10 marks) provided plenty of rebound from the backline.
However, ultimately, it was the Tigers who solidified their spot in the top four with victory.
September might still be 13 days away, but from the outset this felt like finals footy.
Whether it was the bright spring-like sun that blanketed the MCG in the early stages of the game, or the desperate nature of the contest, the whole occasion smelt like September.
And the Eagles were treating it as such.
Within the first 10 minutes on Sunday, Andrew Gaff, Jack Darling and Jeremy McGovern had all thrown themselves into oncoming packs. Sometimes it was brave, others reckless, but regardless it signalled their intent to treat the clash as a preview to the finals.
The visitors also produced the footy to match. Crisper and cleaner around the ground, they kicked seven of the first 10 goals to claim a 24-point lead by the first change.
But just as good sides do, the Tigers responded. The last goal of the opening term was followed by the first two of the second quarter, as the margin was quickly slashed.
The comeback was critical, as the grey skies closed in on the MCG.
The heavens eventually opened at half-time and stayed for the remainder of the game, making it a different type of encounter as both sides started to battle for territory.
While the spectacle suffered as a result of the weather, the contest didn't.
Just three goals were kicked in a gruelling third term, as the Tigers closed the gap to just a point at the final change, relishing the suddenly wet and windy Victorian conditions.
At times, it appeared like that surge of momentum might overwhelm West Coast. But, to the credit of the visitors, they never relented despite a late rush of Tom Lynch goals.
Having relinquished what others might consider an insurmountable advantage in the wet a number of times, they kept being able to respond through generating run from half-back.
But Riewoldt's goal, with just four minutes on the clock, did the trick.
However, while the defeat might sting temporarily on the return flight home for the Eagles, there is a sense this rivalry isn't done yet in season 2019. See you again in September?
Richmond: Important defender Dylan Grimes limped from the field midway through the third quarter, unable to put any weight on his right leg after an awkward landing from a marking contest. However, having gone to the rooms, he returned for the final term.
West Coast: Mark Hutchings spent a fair portion of the first quarter battling what appeared to be a hamstring strain. He returned for the second term, but was taken out of the game at half-time. The Eagles had already lost experienced defender Will Schofield before the game. He was a late withdrawal, having been managed.
Richmond returns to the MCG to meet minor premiership hopefuls Brisbane in a massive clash next Sunday, while West Coast heads home to Optus Stadium to host a Hawthorn side desperate to make the eighth finals spot its own on Saturday night.
RICHMOND 3.1 6.5 8.8 13.10 (88)
WEST COAST 7.1 8.2 9.3 13.4 (82)
Richmond: Lynch 3, Riewoldt 2, Castagna, Caddy, Bolton, Lambert, Short, Martin, Soldo, Edwards
West Coast: Cripps 3, Darling 2, Rioli 2, Petruccelle, Hickey, Allen, Ryan, Waterman, Kennedy
Richmond: Martin, Houli, Edwards, Grimes, Prestia, Lynch
West Coast: Yeo, Hurn, Shuey, Gaff, Sheppard, Jetta
Richmond: Grimes (ankle)
West Coast: Hutchings (hamstring)
Umpires: Rosebury, Gavine, Mollison
Official crowd: 57,415 at the MCG