Hawks home, Mitchell reaches AFL milestone

Hawks home, Mitchell reaches AFL milestone

Hawthorn have kept their two-win cushion at the top of the AFL ladder in ugly fashion, defeating Richmond by 70 points while saluting 300-game hero Sam Mitchell at the MCG.

The reigning premiers eventually booted clear of the dogged Tigers for a 16.18 (114) to 5.14 (44) victory on Sunday.

In swirling winds this was a dour contest for three quarters before Hawthorn’s nine-goal final term brought Richmond undone.

Mitchell was a super contributor in his 300th game in brown and gold, tallying 38 touches as the Hawks notched an eighth-straight victory.

Alastair Clarkson conceded Hawthorne’s showing was “a bit scratchy” and not much of a spectacle.

“We’ve had a very convincing victory in the end but both sides had some significant open opportunities that they didn’t take,” he said.

“We’re really pleased with the win. They’ve been a dangerous opponent for us.

“To run away with the victory helps us in terms of percentage.”

Until Hawthorn’s late burst, this was a match where goals were hard to come by for a variety of reasons.

There were rushed behinds, clanger kicks, punches through, ones that bounced the wrong way and shots that faded the wrong way.

Champions missed and first-year players did, too.

Mitchell set the tone early by missing a simple set shot for the Hawks.

After a lacklustre first half in which most goals came from opposition errors, two goals in a minute felt like a gift from the gods.

Majors from Jack Gunston and Cyril Rioli elevated the contest, giving the 51,892 crowd something to cheer and Hawthorn a match-winning lead.

They piled on the sorry Tigers in the last term, with Rioli, Gunston and James Sicily finishing with three goals each.

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick was upset with his players.

“Fans pay good money to come and see us play. For us to finish off those last six minutes the way we did I was incredibly disappointed,” he said.

“You can lose a game but to let the game go as we did, I thought our defensive efforts were nothing short of shameful.”

Richmond were ponderous in midfield and without a forward-line threat finished with their lowest score in seven years.

Back-line blunders from Nathan Drummond and Ben Griffiths kept Hawthorn on top when the game was on the line.

Those not focusing on the scoreline were kept entertained by a stats shootout between milestone man Mitchell and red-hot Tiger Dustin Martin.

The ball magnets were the busiest two players on the ground, with Martin’s 39 touches outdoing Mitchell with 38.

Brad Hill, who is considering a move away from the Hawks in 2017, was excellent, while Josh Gibson barely lost a contest in the Hawthorn defence.

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