Jacob van Rooyen celebrates a goal for Melbourne against Richmond in R6, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

THE SENSE of urgency registered with Melbourne.

Trailing by two goals late in the third quarter against Richmond in Monday night's annual Anzac Day eve clash, the Demons had to make their move.

DEMONS v TIGERS Full match coverage and stats

Seven unanswered goals later and Melbourne had locked away its fourth win of 2023, a hard-fought, at times scratchy and at times pulsating 18-point victory in front of almost 84,000 fans at the MCG.

The Demons' usual faces all lifted to the occasion, with hardened midfielder Jack Viney consistent throughout to claim best afield honours, midfield duo Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver stepping up and taking control, Jake Lever dominant in the air and ruck pair Max Gawn and Brodie Grundy having a big say on proceedings.


The 15.6 (96) to 11.12 (78) victory also included a brilliant three-goal final quarter from youngster Jacob van Rooyen, the young Demon taking his moment when it mattered.

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The boo was replaced by the 'Roo', with the cheers for the second-year Demon reverberating around the ground in Melbourne's biggest home game of the season.


Richmond came with a plan and executed perfectly in the opening quarter. The Tigers took an 18-point advantage into the second term, with Noah Cumberland's three first-quarter goals lighting the fuse for the yellow and black.

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Without spearhead Tom Lynch in attack, the Tigers were careful not to bang the ball in long for Steven May and Lever to cut off and intercept. Instead they went low, causing havoc in Melbourne's back half as Cumberland's speed caught them off guard.


Richmond was dangerous at ground level, swooping on loose balls and following up, with Rhyan Mansell's last-minute snap symbolic of a term where the Tigers' hunt had overwhelmed the Demons.

Richmond jumped to a 25-point lead midway through the second quarter on the back of Jack Riewoldt's pair of goals, but late goals to Bayley Fritsch and Ed Langdon cut the Demons' deficit back to 14 points at half-time.


Jayden Short's influence continued to be significant, with his penetrating kicking and speed breaking the lines, but Melbourne had started to get some points back in the midfield battle deep in the half to shift the momentum.

They carried that into a lively third term, with Kade Chandler's two-goal effort lifting them, but Riewoldt responding with his own two goals. As the game lifted in intensity, so did both teams, who drew on their big-game experience – between them they have won four of the past six premierships – to match each other's blows.


After a manic last minute of the term that included a rough slide tackle, some tough tackling and tight non-umpiring calls, Oliver's set shot after the three-quarter time siren just sailed over the line to bring the Demons back to within two points at the final change.

The Tigers couldn't control the Dees' run from then, with van Rooyen crucial as the Dees jumped to 4-2 to start 2023.


Young Dee grabs his moment
It had been a quiet night for Melbourne's new fan favourite Jacob van Rooyen until his moment came in the last quarter. As Melbourne got its run on, van Rooyen joined in on the action, taking a big flying mark over Tigers backman Noah Balta in the early stages of the term. With the perfect sit, van Rooyen took his chance and then coolly kicked the goal. Moments later he won a free kick from the same forward flank but his kick that time faded right for a behind, before he then took another mark a minute later. The purple patch was confirmed when he kicked his second and then third goals later in the term in an important cameo.

Jacob van Rooyen celebrates a goal for Melbourne against Richmond in R6, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Rucks have their say
The return of Max Gawn to lead Melbourne's ruck division alongside Brodie Grundy was expected to give the Demons a clear advantage in the ruck and midfield battle against Richmond, who are missing Toby Nankervis and Ivan Soldo due to injury. It saw Ben Miller thrown into the starting ruck and big forward Samson Ryan also pinch-hit, with the pair combining for 21 career games against 'Gawndy's' 367 AFL matches. The Tigers duo battled manfully, with Ryan also hitting the scoreboard, but Gawn's impact was significant in the second half, with the captain having 17 disposals, a goal and taking eight marks.


The big Short (influence)
Richmond has been hit hard by injuries this season but the impact of Jayden Short's absence became extra clear upon his return on Monday night. Short had missed the Tigers' previous three games with a calf injury (all of which were defeats) but he was back to some of his best against the Demons. The 27-year-old was terrific, particularly in the first three quarters, gathering 30 disposals and having a game-high 644 metres gained.

Jayden Short during Richmond's match against Melbourne in R6, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

MELBOURNE    2.2   6.2    10.5   15.6 (96)
RICHMOND      5.2   8.4    10.7   11.12 (78)

Chandler 3, van Rooyen 3, Fritsch, Jordon, Langdon, Neal-Bullen, Oliver, Petty, Pickett, Viney, Gawn
Richmond: Riewoldt 4, Cumberland 3, Hopper, Mansell, Martin, Ryan

Viney, Oliver, Petracca, Gawn, Lever, Sparrow
Richmond: Short, Riewoldt, Taranto, Martin, Hopper

Richmond: M.Rioli (hamstring)

 Bailey Laurie (replaced Trent Rivers in the fourth quarter)
Richmond: Hugo Ralphsmith (replaced Ben Miller in the fourth quarter)

Crowd: 83,985 at the MCG