Sport AFL AFL Finals 2017: Richmond Tigers cut the Giants down to size with a merciless display in preliminary final
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AFL Finals 2017: Richmond Tigers cut the Giants down to size with a merciless display in preliminary final

Trent Cotchin, Dustin Martin and Jack Riewoldt of the Tigers react after winning the second AFL preliminary final between the Richmond Tigers and the GWS Giants at MCG. AAP/Julian Smith
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The yellow-and-black army that filled the MCG to witness the Tigers’ thorough dismantling of Greater Western Sydney will be back at the MCG again next Saturday, with Richmond’s 36-point win leaving no doubt that the team has  earned the right to play in the Grand Final for the first time since 1982.

In Sydney, though, the defeat of the club the AFL has spent millions upon millions of dollars to establish in the rugby/soccer heartland of the Harbour City’s sprawling western suburbs drew precious little reaction.

So slight was Sydney’s interest in its second AFL team bid for the premiership flag that Seven chose to broadcast the match only on its subsidiary 7Mate channel in New South Wales and Queensland.

Many viewers in Sydney looking to support their team were angry they couldn’t watch the match on Seven’s High Definition channel and took to social media to vent their frustration.

But one Twitter user argued: “People complaining the game is on 7mate in NSW and QLD. Be grateful, it’s on TV at all!”

Last week, when GWS won the right to be thrashed by the remorseless Tigers, a mere 14,000 spectators only half-filled the Giants’ home ground.

For the AFL, the game was anything but a winner.

Not that the jubilant Tigers supporters cared much about the reaction in Sydney – or, rather, the lack of reaction –  as they hugged and cheered and sang the team song inside and outside the MCG.

Some even cried tears of sheer joy

A tense first half made way for a Richmond procession in the second, as the sensational Trent Cotchin and Dustin Martin willed their team over an eventually sloppy and tired Giants for a 15.13 (103) to 9.13 (67) win.

Cotchin will continue to command headlines this week though, with his early hit on GWS star Dylan Shiel — who was concussed and forced to sit the game out from quarter-time onwards — certain to attract the MRP’s attention.

But Cotchin was able to put that distraction out of his mind for the duration on the clash, clearly the best afield in front of a seriously vocal crowd of 94,258.

The physical intent on the ball and man that may cost him a Grand Final also saw Cotchin dominate the match, running both ways to stick tackles and influence contest after contest in what might well have been the best game of his career.

Martin, too, was typically excellent, but the game may well be remembered for the emergence of Daniel Rioli as a finals superstar, continuing his family’s long tradition of standing up in the biggest moments.

Rioli kicked four, all of them coming when the game was very much there to be won, and combined fearsome attack on the ball and his trademark skill and grace to frequently scythe through Giant defenders.

The loss represents the second straight year the Giants have fallen one game short of a grand final, and Leon Cameron’s side will be left with plenty of regret after some critical errors and panicked decisions in the third quarter saw the game get away from them.

Steve Johnson in particular, who was wonderful last week against West Coast, was poor against Richmond and some inopportune turnovers in the third saw the Tigers seize the initiative.

The Giants were well lead by Josh Kelly and Callan Ward, while Harrison Himmelburg (four goals) made himself the forward option that Jonathon Patton and Toby Greene couldn’t.

So Grand Final week awaits for Richmond, and with it the nerves while waiting for the game against Adelaide and the MRP’s decisions on Cotchin and Brandon Ellis, whose late bump caught Lachie Whitfield high.

The Crows loom as imposing opposition, but few who saw the Tiger army urge their fast and physical side past the Giants would bet against Richmond.

-with ABC

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