Pretenders stun defenders

April 29, 2021 by
Filed under: NSW Demons 

ANZAC Eve – Melbourne V Richmond – Jones 300 games

Liam Chambers

Undoubtedly the most important game of Melbourne’s bid to become 2021 Premiers. The game started at a frenetic pace with Richmond threatening to overwhelmed the Dees in the opening minutes. After some minor scores from the visitors, Jack Riewoldt soccered in a loose ball from the left of the goal square.

Demon fans watched on anxiously as wave after wave of Tiger shirts threatened to break through the home side’s defenses. Melbourne managed in the main to mitigate the damage but not before Riewoldt succeeded in marking the ball inside 50 and converting for Richmond’s second goal. The Tigers were controlling all aspects of the game but failed to overwhelm the Dees.

Melbourne started to wrest some momentum back and was able to gain some territory going in hard against their opponents. This was typified by Charlie Spargo’s tackle on Bachar Houli, preventing another run on goal. Despite this, Richmond still appeared to have at least three extra players on the pitch compared to Melbourne. The Dees soaked up some tremendous pressure but there was no doubt that they were under siege. Some flickers of light were starting to appear for Melbourne though.

First Bailey Fritsch had a set shot from 40 metres out but speared the shot wide. Then the in form Christian Salem delivered the Dees’ first, with a running kick on goal from the 50m line. The effect on Melbourne was immediate. Suddenly, the competition ceased to be such a one sided affair and became more even handed.

When Shane Edwards kicked Richmond’s third from a 25m set shot in front of goal, the Dees responded with a great run of play culminating with Clayton Oliver receiving the ball inside 50. He passed to Kysaiah Pickett, who’s perfect side kick to Fritsch set up Melbourne’s second.

Trailing 14-21 at the start of the term two was a good result for the Demons, considering the unrelenting Richmond attack in the first quarter. As the rain poured down, the Dees again showed how their game has changed. In the past their control suffered badly in wet conditions; now their marking and handling efficiency was impressive. Slowly Melbourne were grinding down the Tigers and when Alex Neal-Bullen’s kick from the extremely difficult angle near the 50m line sailed through, the stadium crowd erupted.

Tom McDonald then showed his determination to secure his spot in the team with back to back goals. First, a marvelous mark 45m out from goal which he put through with focused precision; then after being pushed in the ruck, he booted his second to increase the Dees’ margin. Luke Jackson ran in another after a hand ball chain starting with a huge kick from Max Gawn in the centre reached inside 50. The rest of the quarter was a Melbourne tackle fest as the home side shut down the Tigers, preventing them from playing their natural game.

Jackson also got the next goal at the start of the second half, soccer kicking the sherrin after a confusing run by the Dees. Melbourne continued to play Richmond at their own game and continued to stretch the lead over their rivals. That lead stretched even further when Christian Petracca made something out of nothing by hand balling from ground level to McDonald who kicked it on to Fritsch where the key forward scored from a set shot.

Shane Edwards temporarily stalled the Dees’ run with a goal for the Tigers but Melbourne responded quickly. Ed Langdon instigated a great run of play taking the ball up the field towards the Dees’ goal. Following on, Neal-Bullen was caught high as he attempted to infiltrate the goal square and scored from the subsequent free kick. Richmond scored again via Jake Aarts but again Melbourne hit back with a brilliantly placed kick from Salem to McDonald who made a great mark in the goal square. T Mac seemed to have rediscover his goal kicking ways, notching up his hat trick.

Even though Melbourne led by thirty points at the start of the last quarter, there would still have been a lot of nervous fans reliving past traumas where similar leads were whittled away in the dying minutes of the game. However, you got the sense that this year was different and the Dees wouldn’t be run down so easily. The defence had been superb all night and the midfield and forwards were all playing with perfect synchronicity.

When Petracca drove through traffic and kicked around the corner to score another blinder, you knew the result was definitely going Melbourne’s way. The Dees continued to pounce on everything, forcing errors from Richmond and controlling the game on their terms. One of the Tiger’s best player on the night, Shai Bolton kicked a goal against the run of play but Richmond were unable to hit the target with their other attempts.

Finally, Kysaiah Pickett iced the cake with his set shot in front of goal having being awarded a free kick when tempers flared on the Tigers’ side. In fact there was a bit of a free for all in the last few minutes but it didn’t detract from the overall game on the night. With Nathan Jones celebrating his 300th game he couldn’t hide his delight with his team’s performance in his post match interview. He commented how formulating a simple plan and sticking to it had paid dividends for Melbourne so far this season.

As long as they can maintain that team spirit, I think Jonesy will be playing finals this September.

Go the Mighty Dees!!!


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