RICHMOND'S season is rolling after Dustin Martin dazzled a heaving Optus Stadium and led the Tigers to a memorable Dreamtime in Perth win against Essendon.
In an engrossing match that had looked destined to go down to the wire, the Tigers piled on seven straight goals in the final quarter to secure their seventh consecutive Dreamtime win, 19.9 (123) to 12.12 (84).
BOMBERS v TIGERS Full match coverage and stats
The 39-point margin did not do the contest justice, after Essendon fought back from a 30-point margin in the third quarter to snatch the lead 10 minutes into the final term.
They looked set to surge past the back-to-back premiers before the Tigers seized the moment, with Martin bombing his third goal from 50m on the run, and Shai Bolton kicking a clutch snap.
From there, Richmond rolled home to record its 11th straight win against Essendon, and back-to-back wins in 2021 for the first time since rounds one and two.
Midfielder Darcy Parish was superb for the Bombers and had a club-record 44 disposals, steering the comeback through the early stages of the final term to win the Yiookan Award as best afield.
He was challenged for the honour by Martin, who set up the Tigers' early advantage and then arrived at their time of need to kick the goal that broke the Bombers' backs.
The Bombers missed crucial chances in front of goal when the game was on the line, however, and missed the opportunity to replace the Tigers in the top eight.
A massive crowd of 55,656 packed Optus Stadium on Saturday night for a Dreamtime to remember, and a large percentage were behind the underdog Bombers.
But their cause was hampered early when star midfielder Andrew McGrath limped from the ground, spending the rest of the night on the bench with his left knee in a brace.
The Bombers relied on the brilliant Parish, who had 11 clearances and nine inside 50s, to get their midfield drive, with Zach Merrett (32 and seven inside 50s) his sidekick.
Richmond suffered an injury blow of its own, with midfielder Dion Prestia substituted in the final quarter with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.
Martin, who had 27 disposals and three goals, was supported by Jack Graham (22 and two goals) through the midfield, while Bolton (21) was crucial late, kicking two of his three goals when the match was at its hottest in the final term.
Perth delivers Dreamtime to remember
It was a finals-like atmosphere at a sold-out Optus Stadium as fans embraced the opportunity to be part of an iconic part of the AFL calendar, and the game delivered. An indication of the atmosphere came in the second quarter when Jack Riewoldt charged at David Zaharakis after a mark believing he'd heard a play-on call, giving away a 50m penalty. The crowd leaned towards Essendon, which won plenty of local fans with its brilliant fightback last week, but there was still plenty of yellow and black in the crowd. The only issue was the dewy surface, which saw players losing their feet repeatedly and reaching for new footwear.
Chol demands spot of his own
The eye-catching early form of Mabior Chol would have had Damien Hardwick excited, but also anticipating a bind as the Tigers' 22 starts to get a more settled look about it. Chol embraced the No.1 ruck role, but Toby Nankervis will eventually return from a knee injury, leaving the Tigers with a decision to make. Chol will be a hard player to leave out if he continues to perform like he did on Saturday night, winning a career-high 19 disposals and getting dangerous to repeatedly send the ball inside 50, with his six inside 50s also a career best. Nankervis is due back in four weeks, and it appears likely he'll be sharing ruck duties when he does.
Brilliant Parish picks up midfield slack
The loss of Andrew McGrath in the opening minutes was a massive blow to the Bombers, splitting up the 'three amigos' who have driven the team's recent surge. The remaining two, Darcy Parish and Zach Merrett, both lifted, but it was Parish who did the heaviest lifting. The star midfielder was clean and creative with his 44 disposals, having more than 35 touches for the fifth straight week, and 40-plus for the second time this season. Coach Ben Rutten identified pre-season that there was 30 per cent more improvement in Parish, and that is what we've seen.
2021 Dreamtime in Perth - Yiooken Trophy Results
Darcy Parish (Essendon) – 8 votes (3,3,2)
Dustin Martin (Richmond) – 6 votes (3,2,1)
Shai Bolton (Richmond) – 3 votes (2,1)
Kyle Langford (Essendon) – 1 vote (1)
ESSENDON 1.2 5.4 8.10 12.12 (84)
RICHMOND 4.3 8.7 12.8 19.9 (123)
Essendon: Ham 3, Hooker 3, Waterman 2, Cox, Langford, Phillips, Stringer
Richmond: Bolton 3, Castagna 3, Martin 3, Coleman-Jones 2, Graham 2, Riewoldt 2, Balta, Caddy, McIntosh, Rioli
Essendon: Parish, Merrett, Langford, Hooker, Cox, Ham, Hind
Richmond: Martin, Bolton, Grimes, Graham, Castagna, Prestia, Chol
Essendon: McGrath (knee), Zaharakis (hamstring)
Richmond: Prestia (hamstring)
Essendon: Patrick Ambrose (replaced Andrew McGrath)
Richmond: Daniel Rioli (replaced Dion Prestia)
Crowd: 55,656 at Optus Stadium