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Richmond have stumbled in their bid for consecutive premiership success, bested by Port Adelaide 10.12 (72) to 8.10 (58), leaving the Tigers’ reputation as a travelling side in complete tatters, after wo losses in South Australia (Adelaide and Port Adelaide) and another in Western Australia (West Coast).
After an emotional and hard-fought clash, it’s easy to make rash calls, however there’s still plenty of positives to be found – for both Port Adelaide and Richmond.
The biggest positive of all for the Tigers was that final margin – just 14 points.
In a cut-throat passage of play in the second quarter, Port converted five consecutive inside 50s into goals, piling on 30 points to secure a match-winning advantage. Three of the goals came as a result of free kicks.
This was made even more pronounced by Richmond midfielder Reece Conca missing a goal from the top of the square in the dying minutes of the first quarter. A miss by Jason Castagna from 40 metres out, more or less straight in front, in the second term didn’t help either.
It was effectively a 42-point swing as a result of seven failures in judgement and execution. In a sport of four quarters and thousands upon thousands of tiny decisions, plays and passages, Richmond gave up the match in just a tiny pocket of space and time.
Outside of these quick failures? Richmond won the first quarter, leading by seven points at the first break, and restricted Port Adelaide to just one goal for the entirety of the second half.
“(The second quarter) was the difference in the game,” Damien Hardwick said.
“It’s a funny game when you win three quarters but manage to lose one by 30 points which was in effect the difference in the game.”
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Richmond entered the match without Brownlow Medal winner Dustin Martin, opting to rest him ahead of the bye round – the most important loss of all.
The Tigers also decided to omit youngster Jack Graham – possibly the scariest move of them all.
While Graham’s form has waned in recent weeks, he was the side’s number one pressure player heading into the match, having recorded 248 pressure acts from his ten matches, ahead of captain Trent Cotchin’s 230, Kane Lambert’s 200, and Reece Conca’s 196.
Graham’s departure was sorely felt in the middle of the ground. Chad Wingard amassed 31 touches with ease alongside Sam Powell-Pepper (28) and Tom Rockliff (25), while the most brutal mid of them all was Ollie Wines, surging to 29 disposals and recording 12 tackles.
Contested possession animal Dion Prestia was another notable absence in the middle of the ground, leaving Corchin with a load to do. The skipper battled hard, even rucking it out against Patty Ryder at times, collecting 20 possessions (11 contested) six clearances and three inside 50s.
Richmond lost the contested possession count 187 to 153 and was smacked in the clearances 49 to 35. The subtraction of multiple premium midfielders is plain to see and the Power did an excellent job making the most of the situation.
Another big name missing was Bachar Houli – an important warrior on the half back line and wings, where Richmond’s gameplan fell apart time and time again in the second half.
Daniel Rioli too remains an important premiership player missing, however it’s not worth dwelling on him because he’s yet to play a game in 2018.
In light of those missing players, a number of second-string Tigers produced their worst performance of the season. Callum Moore and Connor Menadue were missing in action, Brandon Ellis was completely ineffective, and the small forward combo of Dan Butler and Jason Castagna had little to say for nine-tenths of the match.
Even Josh Caddy, who was floated as an All Australian contender during the week, struggled without Martin’s gravity weighing on the opposition.
None of this should take away from Port Adelaide’s result though.
Every team struggles with selections and injuries and the Power likewise missed chances in front of goal that would’ve changed the end result.
It seems the most important lesson for anyone attempting to predict future results in 2018 is not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Port Adelaide and Richmond are both going to be around come September. Should the pair both field full-strength sides in front of a packed crowd, it’s going to be one hell of a show.