RICHMOND is one step closer to the AFL premiership after locking away a top-four finish with a 27-point win over Brisbane at the MCG.
Sunday’s 12.10 (82) to 8.7 (55) victory means the Tigers will finish third on the ladder and face the second-placed Lions at the Gabba in a mouth-watering qualifying-final rematch.
Minor premiers Geelong will host Collingwood at the MCG in the other qualifying final.
Richmond dominated early on Sunday afternoon to lead by 26 points at halftime, but was made to fight tooth and nail in an electric third quarter during which the Lions pared back the margin to seven points.
But as they’ve so often been able to do, the Tigers found another gear and wrestled the game back onto their terms to prevail in front of 76,995 fans.
Jack Riewoldt was the hero for the hosts, booting four first-quarter goals in a domination of Lions opponent Marcus Adams.
Dustin Martin (21 disposals, two goals) and Dion Prestia (30 touches) were typically busy in the midfield, while Nick Vlastuin strengthened his case for a maiden All-Australian berth with an outstanding backline performance.
Brownlow Medal frontrunner Lachie Neale was superb for the Lions, gathering 25 touches to halftime and finishing with a career-high 51.
Playing at the MCG for just the second time this season and fronting the biggest crowd for a Brisbane game – including Fitzroy and the Bears – Chris Fagan’s cubs had always been at risk of being overawed on the big stage.
And that looked to be the case early when Darcy Gardiner’s dropped chest mark led to Riewoldt’s fourth major.
With the Tigers near flawless by foot, the Lions eventually tidied up their ball use and managed to stem the bleeding in the second term.
Skipper Dayne Zorko was inspirational in a sizzling third quarter, booting two classy roving goals in the opening minutes and laying several crunching tackles as the Lions took the game on and played with dare.
Charlie Cameron had been held to just one disposal to halftime under the watch of Dylan Grimes but, when he finally broke through for his first major, the deficit was just seven points.
But the Lions ran out of punches, managing just one further goal from there in the face of Richmond’s overpowering transition game.
Having taken down West Coast and Brisbane in successive weeks to extend their winning streak to nine games, the Tigers will head into September as flag favourites.
But the Lions will have lost no admirers after responding strongly after halftime, and they will be confident of turning the tables on their home deck.
The Lions, having defeated Geelong last week at the Gabba, have lost only once there this season.
© AAP 2019
RICHMOND 6.2 8.6 10.7 12.10 (82)
BRISBANE LIONS 2.1 4.4 7.6 8.7 (55)
Goals: Richmond: J Riewoldt 4 D Martin 2 K Lambert 2 B Ellis D Rioli J Castagna T Lynch. Brisbane Lions: C Cameron 2 D Zorko 2 E Hipwood H McCluggage M Robinson O McInerney.
Umpires: Simon Meredith, Craig Fleer, Robert O’Gorman.
Official Crowd: 76,995 at MCG.