Richmond’s Jack Riewoldt celebrates his goal in the fourth quarter. Pic: Michael Klein
Richmond’s Jack Riewoldt celebrates his goal in the fourth quarter. Pic: Michael Klein

Why Tigers are a cut above the rest

SCORING in the AFL is at a 50-year low right now.

That trend is only one of many reasons why Richmond deserve to be a clear-cut favourite to claim back-to-back premierships.

The Tigers defend the 'G better than any other team, where they have now won 11 consecutive games and conceded less than 100 points from their past 21 games.

It's not a Geelong-style squeeze at Kardinia Park or an old-school Sydney-style strangle at the SCG.

It is simply a pressure gamestyle where they hunt, swarm and harass teams into making mistakes.

Unless Collingwood and Essendon pile on a scoring bonanza on Anzac Day, the first five rounds of 2018 will be the stingiest since 1968.

 

Richmond's Jack Higgins booted three to spark his team. Pic: Michael Klein
Richmond's Jack Higgins booted three to spark his team. Pic: Michael Klein

 

Jake Melksham kicked four and kept Alex Rance honest. Pic: Michael Klein
Jake Melksham kicked four and kept Alex Rance honest. Pic: Michael Klein

 

That bodes well for Tigers coach Damien Hardwick, who labelled defence his "one-wood" this week.

On Tuesday night the Tigers kept Melbourne to just eight goals at the MCG. Last week they kept Brisbane Lions to just two goals at the MCG.

Dimma said he hates getting scored against and that's why he is in heaven at the home of football, where the Tigers have leaked an average of just 66 points from their past 18 matches.

You're not going to lose many matches conceding those scores.

The Demons won the territory battle in the first quarter and amassed 19 inside 50s. They had one goal to show for it - a fluky right-foot Jake Melksham snap.

For all the talk of Richmond's maniacal forward pressure, it is time to focus on how hot it is further up the field.

 

Tigers skipper Trent Cotchin got the crowd roaring with this speccy over James Harmes. Pic: Michael Klein
Tigers skipper Trent Cotchin got the crowd roaring with this speccy over James Harmes. Pic: Michael Klein

 

Cotchin also did the hard stuff. Pic: Getty Images
Cotchin also did the hard stuff. Pic: Getty Images

 

Trent Cotchin took a defensive hanger over James Harmes but it was his ferocious defensive work which was more important.

It appeared the emotional response, which turbocharged Western Bulldogs, Essendon and Adelaide to recent wins, might have electrocuted Melbourne early in the second half.

Clayton Oliver collected 13 disposals and five clearances in the third quarter as the Demons finally kicked consecutive goals, through Jesse Hogan and Jeff Garlett.

But after 18 minutes of dominance they had only outscored Richmond by eight points as Jack Riewoldt erupted the Tigers' crowd with his first goal.

The Tigers, again, had absorbed, steadied and countered as the contest suddenly sizzled.

Harmes cut the margin to just 13 points in the last quarter and then, whoosh.

 

Dustin Martin didn’t reach his usual heights but provided some trademark ‘don’t argues’. Picture: Michael Klein
Dustin Martin didn’t reach his usual heights but provided some trademark ‘don’t argues’. Picture: Michael Klein

 

Richmond sliced through six of the next seven majors in an all-too familiar scoring blitz against Simon Goodwin's side.

These clubs are now 2-2 on Anzac eve and the split of the 77,071 fans would've gone home in vastly different mindframes.

Melbourne's supporters were understandably frustrated. Another big game, and another big let down.

Jake Lever played his best game for the season, Jesse Hogan and Jake Melksham combined for 6.2 and Max Gawn dominated against premiership Tiger Toby Nankervis, even if Melbourne's midfield didn't cash in.

 

Jake Lever was solid for the Demons. Pic: Michael Klein
Jake Lever was solid for the Demons. Pic: Michael Klein

 

But flat patches either side of quarter-time, and then a stinker in the last, denied them a serious shot at winning.

At 2-3 it is fair to question whether 2018 is the year Melbourne will actually take a step forward.

As for the Tigers? They are 4-1 and on top of the ladder with Josh Caddy and Nick Vlastuin likely to return on Sunday and Daniel Rioli not far behind.

They play the MCG - the Grand Final venue for the next 40 years - better than anyone else and know they got it done here last year.

They couldn't be any better positioned than that.

 

Michael Hibberd crashes to the turf. Pic: Getty Images
Michael Hibberd crashes to the turf. Pic: Getty Images

 

Hibberd shows the effects of his fall. Pic: Getty Images
Hibberd shows the effects of his fall. Pic: Getty Images

 

 

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