Bombers hold on to beat Tigers in Dreamtime nail-biter

Roger Vaughan |

Jake Stringer (second right) scored four goals as Essendon held off Richmond at the MCG.
Jake Stringer (second right) scored four goals as Essendon held off Richmond at the MCG.

Essendon have had a massive scare before beating Richmond by 12 points in the AFL Dreamtime At The ‘G blockbuster.

The Bombers kicked two goals to one in the last term to beat Richmond 12.14 (86) to 10.14 (74) on Saturday, the first time in 12 years they’ve had successive wins over the Tigers.

After heavy losses to the Western Bulldogs and Brisbane and managing a massive casualty list, Richmond rallied behind stars Dustin Martin, Shai Bolton, Liam Baker and Toby Nankervis.

In his 298th game, Martin kicked three goals and missed two more shots in the last term.

Martin also had a kick inside 50m late in the game, after Hugo Ralphsmith had goaled to give Richmond some late hope.

But Essendon were able to clear the ball and that proved Richmond’s last chance.

Richmond suffered a key blow early in the last term when Bolton, who had been outstanding, was forced out of the game.

Richmond's Shai Bolton.
Richmond’s Shai Bolton (centre) was helped off the field after suffering concussion. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

Bolton bravely backed into a marking contest and teammate Mykelti Lefau cannoned into his back.

Richmond coach Adem Yze confirmed Bolton had suffered concussion and will miss next week’s game against Geelong.

“I was hoping it might be just a bit of whiplash or a knee in the back, in the shoulder … he’ll go into the protocols,” Yze said

“Losing him at that time of the game, he was looking so dangerous … that was unfortunate.”

Yze praised his team’s spirit and their determination to bounce back after several weeks of poor form.

“The main thing was around our spirit and energy and doing the jumper proud … that’s the standard we want,” he said.

Essendon coach Brad Scott said Richmond played a style on Saturday night that was more reminiscent of their 2017-20 premiership era and “certainly challenged us”.

While noting they were struggling in clearances, Scott added second-placed Essendon had still shown strong effort and had not underestimated Richmond, who only have one win this season.

“It’s hard to explain to my seven-year-old that one result doesn’t mean the next week is going to be the same – that’s just the nature of the competition,” he said.

Returning from injury for his first senior game this season, Essendon defender Jordan Ridley was best afield with 31 disposals, 12 marks and a goal.

Bombers captain Zach Merrett continued his strong form and kicked a crucial goal in the last term.

In his 200th game, Essendon forward Jake Stringer lit up the first quarter with all three of the Bombers’ goals. He finished the match with a game-high four.

But Richmond’s pressure was outstanding and scores were level at the first break.

Adding to Essendon’s early troubles, Nik Cox was forced out of the game with a left hamstring injury.

The Bombers twice looked ready to break clear of Richmond, going 18 points up in the second term and 14 points ahead in the third.

But the Tigers rallied, with Lefau kicking the last two goals of the second term to make it a six-point lead to the Bombers at the main break.

Then when the Bombers were looking dangerous in the third quarter, Bolton marked and goaled.

The speedy Indigenous star then lit up the MCG with a three-bounce run that set up Martin for his third goal.

Clearances had been a massive problem for Richmond and they won that statistic by 10, with Nankervis racking up eight among his 44 hitouts.

AAP