Tom Lynch was in the thick of the action on return as Richmond booked a spot in the penultimate week of the AFL season for the fourth consecutive year with a 31-point semi-final win over St Kilda.
The Tigers piled on five goals in a first-quarter blitz to seize control and brushed off a second-half challenge in the 12.8 (80) to 6.13 (49) victory at Metricon Stadium.
The result sets up a blockbuster preliminary final showdown with minor premiers Port Adelaide as Richmond continue their quest for back-to-back flags.
“Overall, our performance was pretty solid (but) we can certainly play a little bit better,” Richmond coach Damien Hardwick said.
“I thought offensively we were a bit scratchy tonight, gave the ball back a little bit too much in certain situations.
“We’ll look at that and try and improve that next week against a very good Port Adelaide.”
Seasoned finals performers Dustin Martin, Bachar Houli and Shane Edwards starred against the Saints and Shai Bolton kicked three goals in a lively display.
Key forward Lynch was influential on his comeback from a hamstring injury with 2.5 but will come under scrutiny for dropping a knee on Dougal Howard’s neck and shoulder area as they tangled during the third quarter.
“Great teams always play on the edge,” Hardwick said.
“The fact of the matter is, it’s a big boys game, things happen and players will always play hard and tough.”
The Tigers exposed a depleted St Kilda back line that lost Josh Battle and Ben Paton to injury concerns for large periods of the first half after key defender Jake Carlisle had already pulled out during the build-up for family reasons.
Lynch took advantage of Carlisle’s absence and made his presence felt from the opening minute when a strong contested mark against Howard, which he converted into the first goal of the night.
The Saints trailed by 31 points at half-time and dominated the opening 15 minutes of the third quarter but managed just one goal, through Battle, amid a raft of misses.
It proved costly as Dion Prestia kicked a steadier at the other end to ensure a 23-point margin at the final change.
Seb Ross cut it to 17 points early in the final term but the Tigers responded again.
Jack Steele, Hunter Clark and Dan Hannebery were among the Saints’ best and Rowan Marshall held his own for most of the night in the ruck against Toby Nankervis until the Richmond veteran got on top late.
Young St Kilda star Max King threatened in attack but went goalless from three shots.
“We’ve spoken about the finals series and it’s (about) the team that can be composed and finish their work,” Saints coach Brett Ratten said.
“You might have less inside-50s and less marks inside-50 but making those plays up is pretty critical.
“We didn’t complete our plays tonight.”