No it wasn’t Mitchell Johnson spraying it left and right with the ball against England, it was the Western Bulldogs in Melbourne for the second straight week.
Luke Beveridge watched from the MCG stands in frustration as he witnessed his side kick away their hopes of beating cross-town rivals Richmond Tigers.
As third-quarter wonder goals from Shai Bolton and Jack Riewoldt built on the impressive work from big man Tom Lynch to see the Tigers to an important 15.9 (99) 7.19 (61) win.
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With both recent premiership winners starting their years 1-2, Saturday night’s fixture carried more meaning than just winning and losing.
There had been suggestions that both powerhouse clubs were fading away.
With Dustin Martin on the sidelines, the Tigers weren’t quite the feared side that they hoped to be.
But with Riewoldt back in the side and the ever present Bolton a constant threat, the Tigers showed they remain a force to be reckoned with.
“Well done to Richmond, they were under a bit of pressure coming into the match,” three-time premiership winner Jonathan Brown told Fox Footy.
“We were potentially writing them off and say they’re too far over hill but a couple of big inclusions – Riewoldt and (Dion) Prestia – have been influential.”
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Richmond took an 11-point lead into half time thanks to an inaccurate Dogs side.
“If you look at the accuracy of the two teams, the Bulldogs should be in front,” Brown told Fox Footy.
Richmond on the other hand made the of their limited time inside the opposition 50 in the first half.
“You look at the Bulldogs and think they probably should be four goals up, but if you look at where they’ve had their shots from and they’ve been from a fair way out or from wide, so I think the Tigers are playing some good football and should be able to hang on to win.”
The Dogs started well enough and scored the first goal through Aaron Naughton, who kicked two goals three behinds.
But despite being active in front of the posts, they could not finish.
“The Richmond defense have held on well enough and been able to score effectively going back the other way, but yeah the Dogs dominating through the middle of the field,” former Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley told Fox Footy.
“I think Damien Hardwick would be asking for a lift from his midfield. They need to get their hands on the ball because when they go forward they have looked dangerous, being able to kick those two goals from just 10 inside 50s.
“Well Bevo (Luke Beveridge) would be really happy with the way they have dominated field position; they’ve lost the clearances actually but in transition ball movement they’ve just pulled the Richmond side apart. He’d be saying that part is great, now we’ve just got to get that last kick right.”
But the Dogs’ wastefulness plagued them all evening.
Josh Dunkley’s shocker in front of goal in the final quarter summed up their horror night in front of goal.
Lachie Hunter then repeated the dose when he missed in the final minutes of the game.
JUST WHO ARE THE TIGERS OF 2022?
Beaten badly by St Kilda a week ago, the Tigers responded with their best performance of the year.
It was not quite the Richmond of old, but it was close to it as Bolton and Lynch and Riewoldt stood up.
The 38-point win leaves the Tigers 2-2 while the Bulldogs, last year’s runners-up, are 1-3.
“I questioned the hunger during the week,” Nick Riewoldt told Fox Footy’s On The Couch.
“I think with a group like Richmond that have looked and been so hungry for so long, you can screw yourself up for a week but the question is now about the consistency: the consistency of hunger and application for Richmond. This was a great performance.”
Brown, who won three straight premierships with the Lions, said it was too early to tell with the Tigers had turned the corner, but admitted if Martin returned from his leave of absence they would be a force going forward.
“I reckon the Tigers, we spoke about the hunger, I reckon it needs to be more than a week or two because you can get that initial, you can get yourself fired up for these games, but they need to get some momentum,” the former Lions captain said.
“Get those three or four wins in a row to get that belief back and someone try and round up Dusty Martin because if Dusty Martin comes in all of a sudden, you can start to think about maybe we can do something with this season.
“I had written them off on Monday, I had put a line through them, but good to see them put up some fight.”
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE BULLDOGS
Few teams are going to win many footy games after kicking 7.19 for the match.
While it tells you about their horror evening in front of goals, the optimist will tell you that it meant the Bulldogs had 26 scoring shots. That does not include the missed shot at goals either.
“I reckon I can nearly channel Luke Beveridge’s address now,” Buckley said. “I told you once, I told you a 1000 times, kick it between the big sticks not the side ones.
“If they had kicked straight it would have been a different story, but Tigers too good.”
The Bulldogs dominated much of the first half and managed to get the ball through the middle at will, but lost it when it came to their final approach and shot at goal.
It leaves last year’s runners-up in a hole.
“I think we all expected the Dogs would get their game going tonight against a Richmond side missing a lot of senior players, so they’ve got some really big questions to ask,” Riewoldt said.
“They looked as sombre as you could imagine and the Tigers, I reckoned this one was won against the flow a little bit.”
So where exactly are the Dogs?
“Well, the season didn’t start well for them,” Buckley said.
“Their coach’s post-match press conference after round one would of have the focus off the field, but now they need to get switched off.
“They beat a Sydney team by contests and defense last week. They need to go back to the drawing board in that regard because when they went to contested footy, they’re great.”
JUST HOW GOOD IS BOLTON?
Those who caught glimpses of him during the pre-season matches would have noticed that Bolton was one of the standouts.
Early on in the season, 23-year-old Bolton looks set to have his best season.
Bolton was at the heart of Richmond’s transition and in front of goal on Saturday night.
He scored early for Richmond, but it was his second moment in the third quarter that lifted everyone from their seats and drew comparisons with Wayne Carey.
“He’s a star,” Buckley said. “We talk about Dusty Martin coming back in here, he has become an out-and-out star of the comp, a game winner that does some remarkable things on the field.
“I think he’s there (Martin’s level). Whether he it’s in the air, on the ground, goal-scoring, running back and sticking tackles, I think he’s been remarkable.
“And he was a slow burn. It took two or three years for him to come through, but he’s been great.”
Riewoldt, however, said it was too early to label the goal-scorer as one of the game’s best and said he needed to stand up on the big stage come September.
“But to get that level he needs to be able to do it on the biggest stage,” Riewoldt said.
“That’s what has elevated Dustin Martin, he’s had won of the great seasons of all time, he’s won three Norm Smiths. So you can put it together in the regular season like a Dusty Martin but until he actually does it and delivers in September we’re always going to be waiting.”
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