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Dons' dream ends badly: Tigers spoil Fletch's big night

Highlights: Richmond v Essendon The Tigers and Bombers clash in round nine
Corey Ellis of the Tigers celebrates a goal during the 2015 AFL Round 09 Dreamtime at the G match between Richmond Tigers and the Essendon Bombers at the MCG, Melbourne on May 30, 2015. (Photo: Adam Trafford/AFL Media)
Corey Ellis celebrates a goal during Saturday night's strong win over Essendon

RICHMOND'S resurgence has continued in a hard-fought 13-point win over Essendon, with the Tigers spoiling Dustin Fletcher's 400-game milestone celebrations in the Dreamtime at the 'G clash on Saturday night.

After a scrappy start, the Indigenous Round's showpiece game lived up to the pre-game hype, with the Tigers (5-4) withstanding the Bombers' inspired second-half fightback to secure their third-straight win and keep hold of eighth spot on the ladder.

Despite their refusal to give in, more questions will be asked about the Dons' (4-5) finals credentials after the 10.12 (72) to 8.11 (59) defeat.

'It's good to win ugly', says Hardwick

This was Essendon's third loss from the past four games, and fourth defeat to a fellow finals contender since their shock round-two triumph over Hawthorn.

James Hird's outfit has slipped to 10th on the ladder ahead of a critical clash with Geelong in round 10.

Richmond, on the other hand, should take some confidence into a Friday night clash with Fremantle at Domain Stadium before their bye.

Led by skipper Trent Cotchin (two goals), in-form midfielder Shane Edwards, Dustin Martin, Brandon Ellis and the impressive Shaun Grigg (two), the Tigers were able to respond to the Dons' spirited second-half challenge.

"It's a great sign for our leaders to stand up, they're playing good consistent football for a longer period of time which is really important for a side pushing forward,” Tigers coach Damien Hardwick said.

How did Fletcher go in game 400?

"They're good wins, but they're not pretty wins. But it's good to win ugly."

Richmond opened a 23-point lead late in the second term, before the Dons fought back gallantly in a bid to mark Fletcher's milestone with a win.

Sparked by livewire Travis Colyer's (two goals) electric third term, the Dons got within a point at the 19-minute mark but the Tigers did enough with four of the next five goals.

Brendon Goddard, Dyson Heppell, Michael Hibberd and Brent Stanton tried hard to snatch victory for the Dons, while Fletcher was forced to watch the late stages from the bench after he hurt his groin in the third quarter.

The 40-year-old was subbed out early in the final term after gathering 10 touches, on the occasion when he joined Tigers great Kevin Bartlett (403) and Hawthorn's seven-time premiership player Michael Tuck (426) in the illustrious 400 club.

Like his side, Fletcher started quietly but worked his way into the match and the Dons were left lamenting their inaccurate 3.7 opening half, with Jake Carlisle the chief offender.

Jobe under injury cloud as pivotal fortnight awaits Dons

Carlisle, who came into the match battling flu, looked the most likely avenue to goal all night but his wayward kicking didn't match his vice-like marking.

The big man pulled down nine marks for the match – five contested – but finished with 1.3 and one shot out on the full in front of a massive 83,504 crowd at the MCG.

Jobe Watson exerted little influence with 17 touches and a goal, with coach James Hird revealing post-match the Dons skipper suffered an injury in the second term – although he refused to elaborate.

Hird conceded the Bombers faced a huge fortnight against Geelong and West Coast in Perth if his side was to get its season back on track.

Since their round two win over the Hawks, the Bombers have only managed victories against lowly Carlton, St Kilda and the Brisbane Lions, while they have lost to finals contenders Collingwood, North Melbourne and unbeaten Fremantle.

"It's an important couple of weeks for us. If we want to make the finals then we've got to win some of these games coming up and not just get close," Hird said.

"I think even when (we played) North Melbourne we lost by a few goals, tonight a couple of goals, Fremantle was within (28) points.

"So we need to win these games we think we're in and a lot of that is about the way we use the ball. I still think we can get our contest better, but we have just got to use the ball better."

Dustin Fletcher is chaired off after his 400th game. Picture: AFL Media. 

RICHMOND    3.2  5.6  7.10  10.12  (72)
ESSENDON    1.4  3.7  6.8      8.11   (59)

Richmond: Cotchin 2, Grigg 2, C.Ellis, Griffiths, Martin, McIntosh, Morris, Riewoldt
Essendon: Colyer 2, Daniher 2, Carlisle, Chapman, Merrett, Watson

Richmond: B.Ellis, Martin, Cotchin, Edwards, Deledio, Grigg
Essendon: Goddard, Heppell, Hibberd, Carlisle, Colyer, Z.Merrett

Richmond: Nil
Essendon: Fletcher (adductor)

Richmond: Corey Ellis replaced Liam McBean at three-quarter time
Adelaide: Marty Gleeson replaced Dustin Fletcher in the fourth term

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Margetts, Rosebury, Jeffery

Official crowd: 83,804 at the MCG