RICHMOND has fallen short of a win for the third-straight week, missing two late chances to get its nose in front of Fremantle as the two sides played out the season's first draw in a heart-stopping contest at Marvel Stadium on Friday night.
In an ending befitting the see-sawing contest which saw momentum swing between both sides, the Tigers and Dockers were unable to be separated, with the game finishing with a 7.10 (52) to 7.10 (52) scoreline.
Tigers Noah Balta and Noah Cumberland each had an opportunity to take a shot on goal in the final two minutes, where any score would have put Richmond in front.
Balta had the chance to give Richmond the lead from a set shot, but was called to play on and had his kick smothered, before Cumberland had another opportunity to win the game for the Tigers but played on just as the siren went.
Like a nagging final level on a video game, Richmond have been unable to end their final quarter hoodoos and win the close ones as they hang on precariously to spot inside the top-eight, only two points ahead of the Western Bulldogs and St Kilda.
Fremantle, on the other hand, had the ascendancy for much of the final term and looked to be coming home with a wet sail after being behind for each of the first three quarters - kicking two goals to Richmond’s one in the last quarter.
TIGERS v DOCKERS Full match coverage and stats
After Matt Taberner and Shai Bolton traded last-quarter goals, Bailey Banfield snapped an incredible goal to tie the scores with about eight minutes to go - which in the end ensured the contest would end all square.
The draw takes the Dockers back into third spot for the time being, but Brisbane and Collingwood are nipping at their heels, and should they both win, Justin Longmuir’s side will be outside the top four at the end of the round.
The Tigers’ pre-game banner called for a spark and the players responded accordingly from the outset as Hardwick’s charges brought their trademark high-tempo footy to the fore - particularly in the second term as they laid a whopping 20-4 tackles - allowing them to lock the footy in their forward half and put Fremantle’s defence under the pump.
But despite the tidal waves of unrelenting pressure, Fremantle was able to withstand the Tigers storm and stay right in the fight at half time with Richmond being unable to make the most of their territorial dominance on the scoreboard as inaccuracy plagued them yet again.
The first half arm-wrestle failed to subside after the major break, with only one goal kicked between the two sides and a number of opportunities squandered at either end - as Fremantle, for a second straight week, uncharacteristically went goalless in the third term.
Tyler Sonsie’s solitary third-quarter goal gave Richmond a slight buffer heading into the third quarter before all chaos ensued in a dramatic final term.
Fremantle will also be sweating on the fitness of Nat Fyfe who was subbed off in the third term with a suspected hamstring injury.
Spotlight on Nank
All eyes were on Toby Nankervis’ treatment by the umpires, after Damien Hardwick shone the spotlight on the way he is officiated in the lead-up to Friday night’s contest. After giving away a game-high six free kicks, being reported and not receiving a single whistle his way against North Melbourne last weekend, Hardwick described Nankervis’ treatment as harsh and was hoping for a better result against the Dockers after Tigers officials took their gripes to the League’s umpiring department. The spotlight, however, stayed well away from Nankervis from both a frees-against and impact point of view as he prominently featured as a makeshift key forward instead of his natural role in the ruck - with the returning Ivan Soldo taking on the lion’s share of ruck minutes.
Who fills Lobb-sized hole?
There was nothing short of a sizeable hole in Fremantle’s attacking half without the impact and presence of Rory Lobb. The Dockers’ leading goalkicker was unable to recover in time for the finals-shaping contest against the Tigers after he hurt his shoulder early in last weekend’s loss against the Swans, with Justin Longmuir moving the likes of Griffin Logue and Nat Fyfe to the attacking half in order to fill the gap. While Logue and Fyfe (before his third-quarter injury) battled well, and did impact the scoreboard, Lobb’s absence was felt when Fremantle looked to move the ball forward. Matt Taberner, who was the Dockers’ only recognised key forward, played higher up the ground and left the Dockers’ forward line relatively undersized - with the offensive unit only taking a combined six marks inside 50 all night.
Sonsie gets his first
Tigers fans have every reason to be bullish about Tyler Sonsie’s future. Sonsie showcased why many of Richmond’s passionate supporter base had been clamouring for the youngster to be given an opportunity in the senior side for weeks on end by backing up his impressive debut with another solid showing - which included his first career goal at a crucial juncture of the contest.The 19-year-old showed class beyond his years, gathering the ball around 40m from home before taking only a couple of steps and snapping through the only goal of the third term.
RICHMOND 3.5 5.8 6.10 7.10 (52)
FREMANTLE 3.3 5.5 5.9 7.10 (52)
Richmond: Bolton 2, Cumberland, Riewoldt, Balta, McIntosh, Sonsie
Fremantle: Logue, Aish, Brodie, Fyfe, Walters, Taberner, Banfield
Richmond: Bolton, Cotchin, Prestia, Tarrant, Broad
Fremantle: Young, Brayshaw, Brodie, Ryan, Clark, Serong
Richmond: Broad (knee), Grimes (hamstring), Miller (groin)
Fremantle: Fyfe (hamstring), Peace (head)
Richmond: Maurice Rioli jnr (replaced Ben Miller in the fourth quarter)
Fremantle: Travis Colyer (replaced Nat Fyfe in the third quarter)