Richmond have spoiled Dustin Fletcher’s 400-game celebration with the Tigers prevailing by 13 points over Essendon in the Dreamtime at the ‘G blockbuster on Saturday night.
Damien Hardwick’s side led by 11 points after a dour first half and held off the resurgent Bombers in a more entertaining second half that ended in a 10.12 (72) to 8.11 (59) win to the Tigers in front of 83,804 fans.
Fletcher was matched up on Ben Griffiths and Liam McBean for most of the night.
Neither forward had a big influence on the match but Fletcher didn’t either with 10 possessions and two marks before he was subbed out with a tight adductor early in the final term.
A scrappy first half punctuated by errors and turnovers from both sides was hardly befitting of the big occasion.
Where the Bombers were wasteful in front of goal, Trent Cotchin nailed two majors at the other end to give the Tigers a 10-point lead at the first break.
The second quarter was nearly 20 minutes old when Dustin Martin finally lifted the quality of the contest with a brilliant show of strength to steal the ball out of a pack and kick the first goal of the term off a step from 50 metres out.
Essendon were in trouble 23 points down late in the term but goals to Jackson Merrett and Joe Daniher made it an 11-point game at halftime.
The intensity lifted in the third with a sensational mark and goal by Jobe Watson sparking the Bombers, who sliced the margin to one point before a Kamdyn McIntosh goal sent the Tigers into the final term with a seven-point lead.
Shaun Grigg kicked his second goal just seconds into the thrilling finale, with Brandon Ellis and Shane Edwards outstanding as Richmond hung on for the stirring win.