Richmond remain in the hunt for a top-four finish after grinding out a workman-like 27-point AFL win over a brave Essendon in the wet at the MCG.
The Tigers led by just four points after a first half played in heavy rain but slowly wore down the persistent Bombers to score the 10.14 (74) to 7.5 (47) win.
The slippery conditions ensured the contest was more of a hard slog than a display of exquisite skills and Damien Hardwick will be pleased with how his players rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in after a slow start.
Interim Essendon coach Matthew Egan will also see plenty of positives in his second game in charge since replacing James Hird, with the Dons far from disgraced in retiring triple-premiership player Paul Chapman’s farewell game.
Irish debutant Conor McKenna got his AFL career off to a flying start when he slotted the opening goal of the game with his first kick, with the Bombers getting the better of the early exchanges.
The Tigers trailed by two points at the first break but started to win the battle for territory after the restart with two quick goals to Ty Vickery in his 100th AFL match the highlight of an otherwise wayward display.
While a resurgent Richmond peppered the goals, the Bombers kicked five majors straight to halftime, with that uncanny accuracy in such trying conditions keeping them within striking distance.
Kamdyn McIntosh was a key figure as the Tigers took their game up a notch in the third quarter with a remarkable running goal assist, that included three soccer kicks under pressure from Brent Stanton, eventually setting up Dustin Martin.
Richmond still couldn’t completely break free and led by 16 points at three-quarter time, but they finally got some breathing space with the first two goals of the final term.
With the game almost over, Courtenay Dempsey slung Brett Deledio head-first to the turf in a scary tackle that will surely draw the attention on the match review panel, but the influential Tiger was at least able to leave the ground under his own steam.
Hardwick later allayed the fears of fans when he reported that Deledio was up and walking around in the rooms after the match and appeared unharmed.
After scoring a combined 45 goals in their past two wins, Hardwick was pleased with the way his players were able to grind out a victory.
“It was always going to be an arm wrestle – the conditions were pretty horrid out there for a period of time,” Hardwick said.
“To get away with a (27-point) win, we’ll take that, but there’s some areas of our game that we’d like a little bit better.
“Essendon, to their credit, I thought played pretty well … they were pretty brave.”
With so many first-choice players sidelined by injury, Egan has done well to coax another competitive performance out of the Bombers but he lamented an inability to finish off their good work.
“It felt like we were in the game a fair bit, but probably just didn’t capitalise when we had our chances,” Egan said.
“The third quarter was a good example … when we did have that momentum, we’d make a skill error, then they would punish it back the other way.
“They were scoring from turnovers, and we couldn’t, but it felt like the effort was good again, which is important.”