Richmond’s late charge for the AFL finals has survived an almighty challenge from Essendon before the Tigers proved good enough to hang on for a sixth straight win.
In a physical and often spiteful encounter, the Tigers stood tall in a dramatic final term to prevail 14.11 (95) to 11.11 (77) at the MCG on Friday night.
This was the sort of win relished by fans, with most of the crowd of 58,024 staying behind to sing the Richmond club song.
Trainers threw their water-bottles in the air after Ivan Maric kicked an after-the-siren goal to prolong the euphoria.
Their sixth consecutive victory was hard earned, led by the unlikely duo of Anthony Miles and Brandon Ellis.
Richmond had their noses in front for much of the match but two goals in a minute in the last term from Dyson Heppell and Jake Melksham brought the Bombers within a goal.
But the Tigers hung tough to match a club winning streak of six matches for the first time in 19 years.
Trailing at the first change, the Tigers came alive after the break, lifting their intensity around the ball and starting up an impressive running game.
Jack Riewoldt’s 50m bomb from the boundary was a Tiger highlight amongst seven second-quarter goals.
Essendon had lost their mojo and Jake Carlisle lost the plot, giving away two straight 50m penalties to gift Bachar Houli a goal.
It was left to the wise old head of Paul Chapman to steady the ship, kicking truly from outside 50 to restore parity.
This was a classic battle of the sash – with huge hits that were cheered as gloriously as any goal.
Ellis’ first-term mid-air collison with Heath Hocking set the tone, with Courtney Dempsey behind two stunning hits in the third term that swung the game again.
With Essendon back in front, Dempsey’s late airborne bump on Nathan Gordon cost his side a free kick, which Gordon nailed.
Then in the midfield, Dempsey’s huge tackle on Shane Edwards halted Richmond as they surged forward once more.
Essendon owned the corridor but were again unable to kick away after edging the third quarter.
Bombers coach Mark Thompson sent Michael Hurley forward to try and help their struggling forward line, but it was Richmond that stole away.
Early Edwards and Gordon majors gave the Tigers the biggest lead of the night at three goals, but Essendon came again.
Retiring Bomber Jason Winderlich’s goal returned the lead to 12 points but Riewoldt would steer a wobbly torpedo home to steady the ship for Richmond.
The Bombers’ late charge was halted by Edwards, with Maric’s goal after the siren the icing on the cake.