RICHMOND remains undefeated after taking everything West Coast and Melbourne's weather could throw at it at the MCG on Saturday to emerge 11-point winners in a thrilling slugfest.
Saturday's game started in brilliant sunshine but most of the second half was played in torrential rain and occasional lightning and thunder, with the home team taking control once the afternoon turned foul.
After trailing by seven points at half-time, Richmond set up their win with a four-goal-to-two third term and then hung on in a rain-soaked final quarter to hand West Coast its first loss of the season, eventually running out 11.10 (76) to 8.17 (65) victors.
The Tigers' 3-0 start to 2017 is their best opening to a season since 2013 and, if they can defeat the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba next round, they will make their best start since 1995, when they opened the year with seven consecutive wins.
Dustin Martin was the hero for Richmond, defying a fractured cheekbone to continue his brilliant start to the season. The midfield bull had a remarkable 15 clearances – including 11 in the first half – and finished with a game-high 40 possessions and two goals in a performance that should see him bank another three Brownlow Medal votes.
The Eagles were within a goal of Richmond for most of the last term and it was only when Jack Riewoldt kicked the quarter's first major at the 23-minute mark that the Tigers had some breathing room with an 11-point lead.
A goal to Daniel Rioli four minutes later made the result a certainty before Mark LeCras kicked a late consolation goal for the visitors.
Tigers skipper Trent Cotchin was Martin's right-hand man through the midfield with 33 possessions and helped turned the game his team's way with an inspired third term.
Reece Conca (26 possessions) enjoyed one of his best games for Richmond, Dan Butler (two goals) and Jason Castagna (one goal) were livewires in attack, David Astbury restricted two-time Coleman medallist Josh Kennedy to two goals and Kane Lambert limited Sam Mitchell to 13 possessions in the final three terms after the former Hawk racked up 12 touches in the opening quarter.
Second-year Tiger Rioli also gave glimpses of his prodigious talent and sent the Richmond faithful into a frenzy when he conjured a freakish goal early in the second half. Taking the ball just inside the boundary line, he shimmied past Brad Sheppard, handballed to Dion Prestia and kept running to complete the 'one-two' before threading the ball through with a high banana from 40m.
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick said his team had been "a little bit untidy (and) looked a little bit flat" in the first half, but had responded well after the main break.
"Credit where credit's due, I thought we challenged our boys a little bit at half-time and I thought all our leaders stood tall – Trent (Cotchin), Jack (Riewoldt), Alex (Rance), then Dusty (Martin) came to the fore as well. It was really pleasing," Hardwick said.
"A lot of the numbers indicated our dominance after half-time. We probably just couldn't quite get the scoreboard reward we were looking for, but I thought it was a really solid win from our lads today."
Andrew Gaff (33 possessions and seven clearances) was the Eagles' best player and was ably supported in the midfield by Luke Shuey (30 and 10).
Mark LeCras (3.4) was the most dangerous player in the Eagles' attack, while Matt Priddis (23 possessions) was his usual bullocking self through the midfield.
West Coast coach Adam Simpson said his team's "poor intent" around the contest in the third quarter had proved costly.
"It was a game of momentum. I thought we probably missed a few opportunities in the first quarter, but our poor intent in the third really cost us," Simpson said.
"We probably should have been hurt a bit more in that third quarter. Hard-ball gets, the ability to stick your head over the ball when it really mattered, went away from us in that third quarter in particular.
"Having said that, the game was still right on the line up until the last five minutes.
"I sort of get that you can't win every game, and you can have ups and downs with momentum, but it was just too big a gap with our consistency in that area."
Richmond speedster Butler provided the highlight of the opening term when he gathered a loose ball on the wing and headed for goal, burning Jeremy McGovern off with a blistering three-bounce run to convert from point-blank range.
The rest of the term was a relatively scrappy affair, played in swirling conditions at the MCG.
The Eagles kicked the opening goal through LeCras at the eight-minute mark, but the Tigers hit back with the next two majors, through Lambert and Butler, to take a five-point lead at the 21-minute mark.
The Tiger army celebrates after Daniel Rioli's amazing third-quarter goal. Picture: Michael Willson, AFL Photos
West Coast controlled play for the rest of the quarter, but after a clever Mitchell kick set up an easy Mark Hutchings goal the Eagles kicked three straight behinds to go into quarter-time just four points up.
The Eagles' inaccuracy continued in the second term, when they opened with behinds from Josh Hill and LeCras.
Martin showed them how it was done when he converted with a brilliant swinging snap at the six-minute mark to level the scores.
Kennedy got the Eagles back on track with a straight set shot from 40m at the 10-minute mark that put them six points up.
West Coast kicked two of the next three goals – the first gifted to Jack Darling when Tiger Todd Elton flew third man-up at a ball-up deep in the Eagles' forward line – which put the visitors 13 points up at the 22-minute mark.
But a late goal to Castagna helped reduce Richmond's deficit to seven points at the main break.
Richmond: Nick Vlastuin came from the ground after receiving an accidental elbow to the head from Brad Sheppard late in the third term. The defender was bleeding profusely from the nose and went into the rooms for treatment. Vlastuin did not return and suffered a broken nose. Coach Damien Hardwick said after the game he expected Vlastuin would be fit to take on the Lions next Sunday
West Coast: Jack Darling hurt his left ankle after landing awkwardly in a marking contest in the opening minute of the game. He limped from the ground but returned five minutes later and played out the game. Eagles coach Adam Simpson said Darling had "pulled up fine" after the game. Mark LeCras came from the ground late in the game after copping an accidental knee to the back of the head in a marking contest. Simpson said LeCras had escaped with nothing more than a cut to his head.
The Tigers travel to the Gabba to take on the Brisbane Lions next Sunday, when they will be hoping to extend a nine-game winning streak against the Lions. The Eagles face a five-day break before hosting the Sydney Swans at Domain Stadium in an Easter Thursday blockbuster.
RICHMOND 2.2 5.6 9.8 11.10 (76)
WEST COAST 2.6 5.13 7.14 8.17 (65)
Richmond: Martin 2, Butler 2, Rioli 2, Lambert, Houli, Castagna, Grigg, Riewoldt
West Coast: LeCras 3, Kennedy 2, Hutchings, Darling, Cripps
Richmond: Martin, Cotchin, Conca, Butler, Castagna, Riewoldt
West Coast: Gaff, Shuey, LeCras, Priddis, Masten, Nelson
Richmond: Vlastuin (broken nose)
West Coast: Darling (left ankle), LeCras (head knock)
Umpires: Rosebury, Stephens, Chamberlain
Official crowd: 42,523 at the MCG