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Match report: Tigers win the hard way

Highlights: Richmond v Carlton The Tigers and Blues clash in round 14
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 17: Shaun Grigg of the Tigers in action during the 2017 AFL round 13 match between the Richmond Tigers and the Sydney Swans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on June 17, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Shaun Grigg was influential in Richmond's win

THEY can't all be classics. In a round with as many twists, turns and surprises as a Martin Scorsese masterpiece, there was bound to be a couple of games that ran to a more conventional, as-you'd-expect script.

That was the case at the MCG on Sunday, when Richmond beat Carlton by 26 points to record their eighth win of the season and remain entrenched in the hunt for a top-four spot.

Full match coverage and stats

If the game was a movie, it might have received a two-and-a-half stars review: not bad, but without any Oscar nominees in the lead roles.

The Tigers trailed at the first change but then controlled the next three terms to run out 11.18 (84) to 8.10 (58) victors, ending the Blues' recent form patch. It was the type of mature response Richmond would have expected following last week's tight loss to Sydney.

It was also the type of win not hung on some starring big names. Brownlow Medal fancy Dustin Martin warmed into things, and finished with 30 disposals in a good game, but it won't make his brilliant highlights reel, while Trent Cotchin was neat and tidy with his touches but relatively quiet. Jack Riewoldt kicked three majors.

Five talking points: Richmond v Carlton

It was the next tier's efforts that should please the Punt Road faithful. Kane Lambert was consistent with 26 disposals, six tackles and a goal, while Shaun Grigg (26 touches, 12 marks), Brandon Ellis (23, one goal) and Bachar Houli (28) were busy.

Houli was in the action early, and faces some time on the sidelines after being reported for striking Jed Lamb in the first term. His swinging whack flattened Lamb, who was concussed and spent the rest of the afternoon on the bench.

Coach Damien Hardwick praised the Tigers for their ability to sift through the early struggle and leave with the win.

"It was a frustrating game, there's no doubt. What did we have? Nearly 30 scoring shots and just couldn’t quite get the scoreboard reward I thought we deserved. We've played better games but lost, if that makes sense, so it was good to bank the four points and move on," he said.

"They're really hard to play against with that amount of numbers back, so it was a frustrating game, but credit where credit's due, I thought our boys fought their way through it, thought their way through it and we get the four points, so that's a good result. They've been in some pretty good form."

Patrick Cripps was Carlton's leading midfielder, showing smarts and strength in the middle with 27 disposals and eight tackles, while ruckman Matthew Kreuzer continued his strong form with 14 disposals and a dominant 37 hit-outs and two goals. Sam Docherty (28 disposals), Bryce Gibbs (30) and Marc Murphy (26) were also solid.

Blues coach Brendon Bolton was unimpressed by his side's inconsistencies around the stoppages.

"I've said a lot that we want to be defined by pressure and consistency and I thought we were very patchy in both of those areas today. Our defensive transition needed to improve and probably in and around the contest there was far too many broken tackles," he said. 

"We had about 50 tackles today and we set targets a fair bit higher than that. In an area that we want to set really high standards for, I thought we've got a bit of growth required there."

Carlton entered the game with plenty of confidence on the back of two strong wins. Kreuzer was working over Tigers ruckman Toby Nankervis to push forward and make himself a target, while Levi Casboult was also dangerous in the air, his clean hands making him a constant and imposing threat in the first quarter.

With Riewoldt the Tigers' sole tall option near goal, they had to be precise pushing forward but their kicking inside-50 was poor, resulting in some messed up chances. But Jason Castagna continued his exciting season with two goals in the opening quarter, and by the first change the Blues led by just four points, an advantage that about summed up the arm wrestle that was unfolding.

But Carlton couldn't add to its goal tally in the second term as Richmond flexed its muscle to head into the second half with a 14-point lead. It should have been more – the Tigers had more than doubled the Blues for inside-50s (33 entries to 16).

For Carlton to turn things around, a change in channel was required. For Richmond, if it could resume regular programming after half time its second win of the season over the Blues loomed.

A goal to Kreuzer early in the third term gave hope for the Blues to get more reward for their effort, but it took another 26 minutes of game time before Carlton scored its next goal. In between, Richmond kicked two and had gotten out to a 19-point advantage.

The Tigers' last-quarter stumbles this season meant anything felt possible, but Richmond looked steady going into the final term with a 13-point lead. And with four of the first five goals to start the final term, they had it sealed. There was to be no Hollywood end to this one.

Richmond: Daniel Rioli was in some pain in the third term when he dislocated his finger, but after a snap back into place, the exciting youngster headed back onto the field. 

Carlton: Jed Lamb will be assessed this week after being concussed in the opening quarter by a behind-the-play hit that saw opponent Bachar Houli reported. Lamb didn't return after the incident. Jacob Weitering had some treatment on his hamstring in the third term but came back on the ground.

It's a big game next Saturday night for the Tigers, who head to Adelaide Oval and face Port Adelaide. Carlton will host Adelaide that afternoon at the MCG.

RICHMOND     3.3       5.10     7.13     11.18 (84)
CARLTON        4.1       4.2       6.6       8.10 (58)

Richmond: Riewoldt 3, Butler 2, Castagna 2, Ellis, Lambert, Bolton, Nankervis
Carlton: Casboult 2, Kreuzer 2, Wright, Thomas, C.Curnow, Cripps

Richmond: Rance, Houli, Martin, Lambert, Castagna, Riewoldt
Carlton: Kreuzer, Cripps, Docherty, Gibbs, Casboult, Jones

Richmond: Nil
Carlton: Lamb (concussion), Ed Curnow (knee), Plowman (calf)

Reports: Houli (Richmond) for striking Lamb (Carlton) in the first quarter

Umpires: Stevic, Williamson, McInerney

Official crowd: 64,448 at the MCG