Richmond have roared into their first AFL grand final since 1982 after storming to a 36-point preliminary-final win over Greater Western Sydney.
With a raucous crowd of 94,258 overwhelmingly pro-Richmond fans cheering them home at the MCG, the Tigers set up Saturday’s 15.13 (103) to 9.13 (67) win with a pulsating six-goals-to-one third quarter.
“I was just rapt for the players … they’ve put in a power of work,” coach Damien Hardwick said.
“To see them lift the intensity in the third quarter then continue with the assault in the last was really pleasing.
“I thought Trent (Cotchin) and his leaders stood up and took charge of the game … it was a very good result for our footy club.”
Cotchin, outstanding with 26 possessions, faces a nervous wait for the match review panel’s (MRP) assessment of his first-quarter hit on Dylan Shiel.
Cotchin’s shoulder made contact with Shiel’s jaw as he tried to take possession. The GWS youngster played on for a few minutes after the blow, but then went to the bench where he failed a concussion test.
Complicating the matter is the fact the Tigers’ skipper already has two fines this season and will miss the grand final against Adelaide if he receives a third.
Hardwick hadn’t seen the incident when he spoke after the game and wouldn’t be drawn on Cotchin’s prospects with the MRP.
Daniel Rioli played the best game of his short career, kicking four goals, including two in the pivotal third term.
Red-hot Brownlow Medal favourite Dustin Martin sprang to life after a quiet first half by his standards with three goals in a row to help the Tigers to a 31-point three-quarter time lead.
GWS took the game up to the Tigers in the first half but, ultimately, Richmond’s vaunted pressure won the day.
Hardwick’s men achieved just the start they were after, when Kane Lambert and Josh Caddy goaled in the first two minutes of the game.
But with the Tiger Army in full voice, the Giants did well to steady the ship with Harrison Himmelberg – who finished with four goals – booting his side’s first two majors.
Richmond led by a goal at the first break, but had to soak up sustained pressure in the second term.
Josh Kelly was important for the visitors with a goal and 17 possessions to halftime, but a brilliant goal to Rioli put the Tigers up by a point at the main break.
Then the Giants’ resistance crumbled as Rioli and Martin had the yellow-and-black faithful in raptures as the Tigers broke the game open.
GWS desperately needed to kick the first goal of the last quarter, but Martin booted his third in front of his adoring fans at the Punt Road End.
But, the Giants wouldn’t lie down.
The margin narrowed to 23 points when they struck back with successive goals, but Jack Riewoldt – who endured a dirty day – stepped in with his only goal to send his side into the grand final.
GWS coach Leon Cameron was proud of his players, but bemoaned their inability to match the Tigers’ increased intensity after halftime.
“Probably the first quarter-and-a-half, we had it on our terms but we just needed to capitalise a bit more,” Cameron said.
“I think we probably should have come in in front at halftime … you’ve just got to take your opportunities and we didn’t.
“In the end, they deserved to win because their second half was clearly better than ours.”