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Tigers thump Bulldogs to maintain best season start in 18 years

Liam Picken of the Bulldogs is tackled by Trent Cotchin of the Tigers during the AFL Round 20 match between the Richmond Tigers and the Western Bulldogs at the MCG, Melbourne. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Trent Cotchin and Liam Picken contest the ball
RICHMOND has won its first three games of the season for the first time since 1995, overpowering the Western Bulldogs by 67 points at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

Brett Deledio's 65m rapid-fire goal came within 11 seconds of the opening bounce and his long-range bomb set the tone for a switched-on Tigers unit.

Richmond took a 20-point lead in to quarter time, before extending that margin to 32 points at the major break.

They scooted away from a tiring Bulldogs outfit in the second half, piling on eight goals to three in the third term to take charge of the contest and going on to win 20.15 (135) to 10.8 (68).

Coach Damien Hardwick said the Tigers were determined to embrace the expectations that will come with the club's unbeaten status.

"We spoke about it (the hype). The best place to be is where expectations are high," Hardwick said.

"We've spoken about the fact that that's when you get your best results.

Dustin Martin's zip and conviction provided the stimulus for the Tigers, as he collected 35 touches and kicked two goals. Trent Cotchin ran his shadow Nick Lower into the ground as he amassed 36 disposals.

The Bulldogs struggled to match the Tigers' raised intensity after the major break, as they buckled under the weight of Richmond's inside 50 entries (62-39).

"They outplayed us in all areas of the game," coach Brendan McCartney said after the game.

Dustin Martin powers away from the Bulldogs' Tory Dickson. Picture: AFL Media

Along with Martin, the typically industrious Brett Deledio (27 touches and three goals) and Trent Cotchin (36 disposals) spurred the Tigers with real drive out of their engine room.

"It's not just those two (Martin and Cotchin), they've developed their side really well, all of their midfield," Bulldogs 200-gamer Daniel Cross said after the game.

"When those guys get a run on … they're as good as anyone."

Jack Riewoldt (five goals) and Luke McGuane (three) also took it in turns to wax and wane in the forward line.

The Bulldogs will sweat on Easton Wood, who was subbed off early in the first quarter with a hamstring injury and has been troubled by similar injuries in the past.

Forward Tory Dickson rolled his ankle and was on crutches, with ice wrapped around his ankle, in the rooms after the game.

McCartney said the club had taken a cautious approach with Ayce Cordy, who had pulled up sore with a tight back at training on Saturday and after the initial warm-up two hours before the game. Cordy was replaced in the selected side by Tom Campbell.

Vote for the three best Richmond players from this game

Vote for the three best Western Bulldogs players from this game
Ryan Griffen worked tirelessly for the Dogs, gathering 30 touches, and Liam Jones tallied four goals in one of his best games for the club.
Adam Cooney also worked overtime for the Bulldogs and topped his work off with a classy third-quarter goal.

But it was Richmond's powerful stoppage work that allowed them to dictate terms and their ability to not allow the Bulldogs players any easy outlet kicks was a strong point of emphasis.

Pleasingly for Richmond fans, the club made it all the way to the preliminary final the last time it started a season this well in 1995. Going on Sunday's performance, history might just find a way of repeating itself.

The Tigers inspired early-season form is set to be tested at the MCG next Saturday as it battles Collingwood in what shapes as one of the games of the season so far.

The Bulldogs, on the other hand, face a tough trip to Adelaide to try to correct their 1-2 record.

RICHMOND                            4.9    7.11   13.14   20.15 (135)
        2.1   3.3     6.5       10.8 (68)
Riewoldt 5, Deledio 3, McGuane 3, S. Edwards 2, Martin 2, Knights, Houli, Jackson, Tuck, Maric
Western Bulldogs: Jones 4, Cooney 2, Stevens, Griffen, Giansiracusa, Dahlhaus
Martin, Deledio, Cotchin, Houli, Maric, Morris, McGuane
Western Bulldogs: Cooney, Griffen, Jones, Morris, Wallis
Jake Batchelor (ankle) replaced in selected side by Chris Knights
Western Bulldogs: Ayce Cordy (back tightness) replaced in selected side by Tom Campbell, Easton Wood (hamstring), Dickson (ankle)
Chris Knights replaced by Brandon Ellis in the fourth quarter
Western Bulldogs: Easton Wood (hamstring) replaced by Clay Smith in the first quarter
Reports: Nil
Umpires: Stewart, Leppard, Kamolins
Official crowd: 44,045 at Etihad Stadium