The Tigers did what the Tigers do – they pressured the Saints into mistakes, capitalised on them and earned themselves a lead that was never headed.

We’ve seen it before, right? The Tigers work their way in front and then go about their business in a methodical, almost expected style of play to round the game out. Yes, teams appear to challenge, but when push comes to shove, Richmond seems able to slot a goal against the flow of play and suddenly, things are back where they were fifteen minutes prior.

Does that mean they had this game against St Kilda in-hand early on? Well, kind of. A late first-quarter goal to Dan Butler gave the Saints a small form of respectability, but when you break the game down, the Tigers led by three goals at quarter time, five goals at half time, four goals at three quarter time and ran out winners by five goals as well. Would you call that “in-hand”? It’s pretty close to it, particularly when you consider the style the Tigers play – they don’t really blow ides out of the water. They gain control and they maintain control.

Unless it’s the Grand Final, I suppose. Then the foot goes on the throat.

Did the Saints kick themselves out of the game?

Will the Saints be kicking themselves for it?

Does Tom Lynch have a case to answer?

I’ve got a dozen questions to answer here, so let’s get cracking with The Mongrel’s Big Questions.

 

DOES TOM LYNCH HAVE A CASE TO ANSWER?

I’ll start with the dumbest of all questions right off the bat – no, he does not have a case to answer.

The amount of pressure Lynch both on the shoulder/chest of Dougal Howard with his knee wasn’t even enough to pop a grape. Of course, there was an immediate outpouring of rage on Twitter – who else uses Twitter other than the perpetually outraged? Yes, Daisy Pearce doesn’t like the look of it – so what?

This is a storm in a tea cup.

The reaction of Dougal Howard should tell the story here – he did not give a rat’s arse about Lynch putting his knee on him. No remonstrating, fighting to his feet to go on with it – nothing.

There are some in the media who love beating this stuff up. Some in the public even more. It sells papers and gets people talking, but seriously, if there is a case to answer here for Lynch, we may as well throw our hands up in the air and start playing netball.

 

DOES TRENT COTCHIN HAVE A CASE TO ANSWER?

For what? A high tackle?

NO!

Well… maybe, but it’d only be a fine.

He dragged Zak Jones down with what was a high tackle after the whistle had already blown to award another Saints free kick. There were three umpires around and none saw fit to award a fifty metre penalty for this action, which leads me to believe none of them thought it was too excessive. Of course, one claimed not to see it at all, so there is the chance that all three didn’t see it. That kind of stuff happens.

Only Jarryn Geary came in to fly the St Kilda flag after it, which was really disappointing, and Jones played the game out. Conspiracy theorsists won’t like it, but there’s nothing much in this one. People are using the “potential to cause injury” line, as it is on the tip of their tongue after the Ben Long suspension, but a bump and a high tackle are very different. Others are using the comparison to Toby Greene last season. Come on, we’re better than that, aren’t we?

No case of note to answer for Cotchin… if the AFL want to ping him, he’ll cough up a few dollars move onto the Prelim.

 

DID BRETT RATTEN MAKE A MATCHUP MISTAKE WITH JARRYN GEARY?

I really rate the way Ratten has coached this season, but it certainly seems that he erred with Geary in this one.

Deployed against Nick Vlastuin for a quarter or so, Geary was switched into defence, which left the Richmond backline to free-up whichever of its running defenders to do some damage.

They chose Bachar Houli.

And Brett Ratten probably should have chosen him as well. Thanks Captain Hindsight? Nah, I said it in last week’s review, too. You can look it up if you want to

When you look at the type of game Vlastuin plays; the sweeper, the interceptor, he is a very tough matchup unless you can contest with him in the air or remain dangerous at ground level. Whilst Geary has the capacity to remain dangerous at ground level, he is not a threat to Vlastuin’s aerial prowess the way Cam Rayner was for the Lions.

However, against an accumulator like Houli, who I thought would receive the Geary attention, all he would have had to do is ensure that he prevented Houli’s run from half back. Easier said than done, of course, but much more manageable if you possess Geary’s skill set.

And so Vlastuin leads the Tigers with six intercepts, Houli leads all players with 32 touches and Geary moves to defence to have a middling kind of game. This was a squandered opportunity for Ratten and his Saints.

 

WHAT’S THE WORD I AM LOOKING FOR IN REGARD TO TOM LYNCH’S GAME?

I know exactly the word I am looking for, but I am going to substitute it to avoid the exodus from the page due to vulgarity.

Instead of using it, I’m going to call it “mongrel”. Tom Lynch added an element of mongrel to this Tiger side that was simply not present in their loss to Brisbane. He didn’t just attack the footy; he cannoned into anyone silly enough to stand in front of his launch at the footy, as Ben Paton and his bloodied head can attest to. He also laid some ripping tackles inside 50 and threw his body into contest after contest.

Some will look at his return of 2.5 and say he didn’t do enough – those people have looked up the stats and didn’t watch the game. Without Lynch, the Tigers would have gone close to losing this contest.

He had an equal game-high nine score involvements, one of which was a hard-won handball to set up the sealer from Dustin Martin in the last quarter as he became THE focal point in attack for Richmond. I am not sure whether it counted as a score involvement, but his spoil on Jarryn Geary to prevent the easy intercept gave the Tigers the chance to feed Dion Prestia for goal in the third.

There is an attitude Lynch has carried this season; an attitude that reeks of a player who is now aware of how good he is and how he can influence a game. More than that, he is a player with success now behind him – he has nothing to prove to anyone, and is free of the stigma that came with being a very good player on a very bad team. In his current role on this Richmond team, Lynch is the difference between a straight sets loss and his team moving into a Prelim.

Okay, okay Tiger fans – I may be being a little over-dramatic by stating the Saints could have got you without Lynch, but the level of mongrel he brought to this contest set the example for the team to follow. Yes, two goals from eight shots (he had one go out of the full) is not good enough, but if he can influence the game to this level when he kicks just two, how much will he influence it when his kicking boots are on?

 

WHY WAS BRUCE PRAISING MAX KING?

Yeah, Bruce has a bit of a thing for Max King – so much so, that seconds after King took on tacklers and was pinged for holding the ball, he uttered this line.

“King gave away the free kick, but how impressive was he?”

Ummm, not very, Bruce. He got caught holding the footy, and you know what would have been more impressive? Actually converting in front of goals.

King finished with 0.3 but at least two of them were the sort of shots at goal that should be bread and butter for a number one forward. Worse, he undid the great work of players up the ground – one of the passes to hit him on the chest from Tim Membrey was absolutely perfect.

I’ll cover the Saints’ inaccuracy a little more below, but hearing someone praised for a game where he was as responsible as anyone for the poor kicking at goal just kind of pissed me off.

King will be good – he should be very good, but on this occasion, he and several others, let the Saints down.

One of the most underrated aspects of the modern game is the “Get Out Of Jail” mark that players take when trying to exit defensive 50. All avenues are closed, so they have to clunk a contested grab to relieve the pressure. Only two players took these tonight – Jack Riewoldt and Toby Nankervis. These touches were worth their weight in gold. How many times do you see teams put up the wall and have multiple forward 5 entries? This breaks them up, and in 2021, I will be keeping a running total for all you weird stat-heads out there.

 

Richmond v St Kilda – Player Ratings

 

DID NANK TAKE THE CHOCOLATES OVER ROWAN MARSHALL?

You know, I think he did!

It wasn’t a popular opinion amongst my fellow Mongrel writers, but going into this game, what were the expectations on both Nankervis and Marshall?

If I’m being honest, I expected Marshall to be a decisive factor in this game, whilst I expected Nank to go about his workmanlike business, holding his own but not being overly influential. Well, as the last quarter started, it was as though the Tiger warrior decided to drop the hammer, controlling the first three centre bounces to aid the Tigers in setting up their first goal.

Marshall had the advantage in the total hitouts, but too many times they simply went nowhere, allowing the Richmond mids to either breakeven or whip the footy out of the centre. It was at this point you started to realise just how much St Kilda had come to rely on the athleticism and deft ruckwork of Paddy Ryder. Marshall was getting his hands on the footy, yet Richmond smashed them in centre clearances 15-5.

Add in that Nankervis was able to extract the footy himself on four occasions to Marshall’s two and I reckon you have the bloke who didn’t have huge expectations rising to the challenge, whilst the one who many have earmarked as a future All-Australian couldn’t get the job done.

 

WHERE DID THE SAINTS LOSE THIS GAME?

It’d be pretty easy to point to the absences, and yes, Jake Carlisle, Ben Long and Paddy Ryder were huge outs, particularly considering the roles they play, but there was another area where the Saints continually fell down in this game.

Their handball disposal.

The amount of times St Kilda players handballed to the feet of their teammates, or overshot them completely with the footy was appalling, particularly in the first half. Names like Jack Steele, Rowan Marshall, Nick Coffield… they were botching fundamental skills like a three metre handball, and when you do that against the Tigers, you invite pressure and you invite trouble.

You see, Richmond will give you a chance to beat them. They always do. If you’re good enough, slick enough, confident enough and skilled enough, quick forward handballs can bring them undone. Obviously, two flags in the past three years indicate it doesn’t happen often, but teams can take on their pressure and beat it…

… if they’re good enough.

The slippery Gold Coast conditions didn’t help, but not hitting a target just metres away undoes most of the good work that occurred right before it.

Some will point to the botched score review as a reason. Others will find things to blame here or there, but it was the lack of skill and composure and the inability to find targets properly at close range that brought the Saints undone.

As happens to so many teams, they got Richmond-ed.

 

IS THAT DANIEL RIOLI’S BEST GAME OF THE SEASON?

Maybe not his best game, but it was certainly his best first half.

So often, Rioli seems to cruise through games, having minimal impact and then he bobs up to kick a late goal and have a few touches that make it seem as though he had a good night. But not tonight – he did his best work in the first half as he played a pivotal role in the Tigers’ first quarter onslaught to set up their lead.

And it wasn’t just that he hit the scoreboard – his pressure around the footy and his attack on the footy were excellent right from the first bounce. It was Rioli’s attack on the footy to win the first clearance of the game, despite not even attending the centre bounce, that got the ball going Richmond’s way. With clean hands, he dished off and the next thing you know, Tom Lynch has outmuscled Dougal Howard and marked the footy.

Some of his disposals left a little to be desired, but seeing Rioli wrap Ben Paton up in a rundown tackle in the last quarter would have Tiger fans smiling. That’s what they want to see from him at this time of year.

Will the Rioli flag run continue?

 

Public Enemies

 

IS BRAD HILL A COMPLETE LETDOWN?

Yep. It’s a hard yes from me, anyway.

He was a non-factor in this game, just as he has been for the majority of 2020. Whilst other Saints recruits have stamped their authority on contests throughout the season, Brad Hill has done nowhere near enough to justify his lofty status as one of the best wingmen in the game.

Based on this season, he is a long way from being that player.

As many of you will be aware (our members, anyway… they rock!), Hill failed to register many scores in out weekly wingman rankings, finishing 20th overall after Round 18. Names ahead of him included Noah Anderson, Zac Bailey, Ollie Florent, Ed Langdon and Brandon Ellis – all players you’d expect Hill to have covered.

But no, he didn’t have them covered. What we got from Brad Hill at St Kilda this season were a bunch of poor games and excuses from others for him.

“Oh, his teammates aren’t kicking it to him,” said someone who may or may not have been Brett Ratten at one point during the year. How about this – Brad Hill occasionally has to go and win his own footy. He was deplorable in this game – an absolute non-factor as he picked up just 11 touches for the game with just seven of them hitting the mark. Amazingly, I thought he was outplayed by Marlion Pickett… and Marlion Pickett stunk it up in this game.

At least Pickett was able to do something of note and drop Rowan Marshall on his backside as he was about to have a shot for goal.

Over the next week or so, I’ll be rating all the recruits on their performance for the season. Halfway through the year I did this and gave Hill the benefit of the doubt, thinking he might come good in time for finals.

Nope, I was wrong. Finals came around and he shrunk back into his shell like a scared turtle, and he deserves any criticism that comes his way from frustrated St Kilda fans.

 

SHOULD THE TIGERS PERSIST WITH MARLION PICKETT?

This is a bit of a tough one – Damien Hardwick obviously likes something about his game, but other than the physical pressure he applied to Rowan Marshall in this one, I cannot think of another redeeming quality about his game.

He was fumbly, he dropped marks, he missed targets… it was as though he was wearing a St Kilda jumper out there!

Pickett finished with a very modest nine possessions, and with Josh Caddy knocking on the door of this Richmond side, he may have a hard time holding his spot. I will state this, however – if his responsibility was to keep Brad Hill quiet, then it was mission accomplished for Marlion, and Hardwick will continue to be happy with what he is getting from him.

 

WHAT MAKES AN EFFECTIVE DECOY?

We’ve seen some fail over the years, haven’t we? Players that are supposed to draw the attention of the defenders, allowing another to get off the chain? I can remember Collingwood trying it with Brody Mihocek against West Coast a year or two ago, and Jeremy McGovern basically did the footy equivalent of laughing at the tactic as he went about his business intercepting anything and everything.

That was because, at that point in time, Mihocek was not considered a legitimate threat. That tactic would likely work a lot better now.

But in Jack Riewoldt, you have a player that the opposition simply cannot afford to ignore. If you choose to zone off Jack, Richmond have had years of practice kicking it to him – they’ll find him and he’ll punish you.

Looking at this game, Ben Paton has been resolute in defence for the Saints all season. Averaging 12.5 disposals and 4.1 intercepts, he has been one of the unsung heroes of the Saints’ defence.

But when he returned after tom Lynch split his head open, Paton found himself being dragged far and wide by Jack Riewoldt and as a result was unable to get into the play. He was also unable to be third man up to help Dougal Howard against Tom Lynch, which left the Saints defender all alone. Forget Hawkins Island – this was Lynch Peninsula.

Paton finished with just seven touches – his lowest output of the season if you disregard the game he was injured early in the piece.

Some may look at Riewoldt’s game and think he had a poor one, but what he did was open the forward line up and give Lynch the room to move. If Lynch kicks straight, the move is hailed as a masterstroke, but given Tom kicked 2.5, it’ll just be something we discuss here, okay?

 

SO, WAS THAT JUST ANOTHER AVERAGE GAME FOR DUSTY?

Apparently so.

25 touches, an equal game-high nine score involvements, another game-high ten inside fifty disposals and almost 600 metres gained for the Tigers.

Not a bad day at the office, for the champ.

Particularly when you factor in that he was doing all this in opposition to one of the best two-way runners in the game, Jack Steele.

I was hoping that Steele would be deployed in a defence-first role on Martin for this game, but it seems as though they were playing their own game as soon as the stoppage was won. Martin won six clearances whilst Steele made the mistake of actually roving to Marshall’s taps… which were going anywhere other than near him. He ended up with three for the game.

The big difference in the two on the evening comes in their score involvements. You look at Martin with the fiity – those ten inside 50 deliveries are the sort that hurt. The Tigers had one more scoring shot, but Martin had seven more score involvements than Steele. The Saints star battled hard, but his disposals lacked potency and at one stage in the second quarter, after a nice build up and with plenty of time to steady, his inside 50 ended up hanging in the air, giving Max King no chance and allowing for three Tigers to congregate for the spoil.

It was a balanced game for Martin, who kicked it up a notch in the last quarter as the Tigers iced it. His goal at the 11-minute mark sealed the game for Richmond as Martin added to his long list of stellar finals outings.

Just another day at the office for him, and a bit to learn for Steele as a result.

 

IS SHAI BOLTON THE SMALL FORWARD THE TIGERS NEED?

With Jake Aarts being dropped from the Richmond side, I was quite intrigued to see how they’d fill the void at half forward.

But the reintroduction of Dion Prestia to this side last week has given the Tigers room to move with their personnel. With Prestia spending more time in his familiar role in the middle, Shai Bolton was moved forward this week, and it paid large dividends.

His three first half goals were vital as the Tigers established their break. Bolton was elusive, desperate and managed to kick truly as the Saints squandered opportunity after opportunity at the other end. Both he and Shane Edwards added opportunistic bite to the Tiger forward half and would have Damien Hardwick smiling widely going forward.

Having Bolton across half forward is a luxury that some coaches would kill for. He wins his own footy, has great hands at ground level and rarely loses his feet in a contest, even when he is initiating the twists and turns that so often bring players undone.

Bolton has had a wonderful season, but as the Tigers move back to the tried and trusted centre bounce set up of Martin, Prestia and Cotchin, he was required to take on a different role. And he did. Three goals straight… how much would the Saints have killed from a return like that from any of their forwards?

 

IS THE SCORE REVIEW BROKEN?

This wasn’t the difference in the game, but it is apparent that this is not working. I don’t want to harp on about it, but the quality of the footage is simply not good enough.

Saints fans – you were robbed against Melbourne when Dougal Howard appeared to get his hand on the hurried Petracca kick forward to steal the game. That cost you the chance at contending for a top-four position. And now this game… the ARC has not been a friend to you this season.

On this occasion, the review was called to check whether Nick Vlastuin had touched the footy. On review, it appeared as though he had not. The ARC then started checking whether the ball had actually crossed the line – but that was not what the review was called for, idiots! The umpire had already decided it had crossed the line – he wasn’t questioning that!

But the result came back as inconclusive but I was unsure as to what part they deemed inconclusive. Was it the touch? The ball crossing the line?

This “inconclusive evidence” is a cop-out, for mine. You make the decision on the evidence available – don’t send it back to the bloke who is obviously unsure on the goal line and doesn’t have reviews from ten angles. Have some balls and make a call!

The AFL are in a financial hole, but a lot of money should have been spent on better equipment/tech right at the outset to get the quality of footage this sport deserves. If something like this costs a Grand Final…

 

WHO WERE THE UNSUNG HEROES?

Dylan Grimes- just went about his business with a minimum of fuss once again. Unbeaten all game.

Hunter Clark – Creative and elusive off half back. Set up the first goal of the last quarter with some nice candy selling and composure at half forward.

Nick Coffield – Solid in defence, reads it well and has great hands. Will be one of the young stars that underpins the Saints’ defence for years.

 

ANY QUICKIES, MONGREL?

Yep… story of my life.

I really didn’t like Nick Vlastuin throwing his head back trying to draw a free kick in the first quarter as he was tackled. You’re better than that, Nick. I’d actually like to see the umps ping blokes for doing that and award free kicks for staging.

A wonderful start to the game by one of the most improved players in the game, Liam Baker. Don’t wanna blow my own horn, but you could see his improvement coming in the Marsh Series this season. Search “Marsh” on our site and you’ll see me singing his praises.

I read a couple of comments calling Trent Cotchin dirty this evening. They are obviously unfamiliar with the intensity of finals footy. Cotchin is the kind of captain I’d follow into battle.

Plenty to take out of this year for the Saints. Really ran into list issues at the wrong time with those outs, but a finals win and some definite self-belief should see them back in the mix next season.

Tigers in the final four again. Red flags everywhere for the other contenders. The Port v Richmond game should be an absolute cracker.

 

And that’ll do me. Exactly the type of win the Tigers are renowned for. They’ll grind you into the turf, these blokes. You simply cannot waste chances against them.

 

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