The Pies are back in business with a big win over the Tigers, thanks to five goals from high-flier Jordan de Goey. (AAP: Julian Smith)
The much-anticipated MCG showdown between Richmond and Collingwood saw both teams arrive feeling the pressure after round one — but only one team left having answered the critics.
The replay of last year’s preliminary final may not have given us another Mason Cox star turn, but he and his teammates were still more than a match for Richmond.
Here’s what we learned from the Magpies’ 44-point win over the Tigers.
The ‘Woods show they have steel when needed
There was no doubting the pressure on Collingwood last night, coming up against a wounded Tigers outfit after the Pies’ round one loss to Geelong.
After a slowish start, Collingwood seemed to gather steam late in the first quarter and into the second. A burst of goals either side of time on in the second term gave the Pies a 24-point buffer, and the game looked set to break wide open before half-time.
But then the Tigers hit back, and three goals in the final few minutes — including a fairly lucky major to Shane Edwards after the siren — brought things back to a single kick at the long break.
If there had been any doubts in the Magpies’ minds, it could have been a difficult second half.
But from the opening bounce of the third term, Collingwood went straight downfield, Scott Pendlebury found Chris Mayne, and the former Docker doubled his team’s lead 25 seconds in.
The look of frustration on Damien Hardwick’s face in the Richmond box said volumes. The Tigers hung in to be three goals back at three-quarter time, but they never really threatened and the Pies ran out impressive winners.
That’s the kind of game that Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley will want to repeat — although he might point out to his men that a bit of ruthlessness in attack could have put things away by half-time.
Personnel problems just get worse for Tigers
An injury to star forward Jack Riewoldt is the last thing Richmond needs right now. (AAP: Julian Smith)
AFL tweet: Jayden Short kicked a goal from the pocket after a frantic play, but Jack Riewoldt was left grabbing his wrist. #AFLTigersPies
If there were serious doubts about Richmond after losing Alex Rance in round one, then goodness knows where the confidence levels sit after that defeat and the knock-on effects for the Tigers’ first-choice side.
Full-back one week, full-forward the next — as soon as Jack Riewoldt came down from a spectacular attempted hanger in the opening minutes of the second quarter you had the sense it was bad.
He was left grimacing in pain for some time and wringing his hand. Riewoldt went off and re-emerged later, but was only an occasional factor in the game — and he had another moment where he fell on the ground and was left holding his hand again.
Scans will obviously tell the tale, but with the Giants, Power, Swans and Demons their next slate of opponents, the Tigers will be desperately hoping it’s a minor injury.
A look at the stats shows how much Richmond has counted on the two bookends. With Rance already almost certainly done for the year, Riewoldt’s absence for any length of time will place a huge burden on newly-arrived big man Tom Lynch.
Swamp tweet: RICH have not played a game without at least one of Jack Riewoldt or Alex Rance in the side since Round 9, 2009. @Richmond_FC @AFL
If that wasn’t bad enough, unfortunately for the Tigers, Dylan Grimes’ shoulder to the head of Jamie Elliott makes the defender an unlikely starter against GWS.
And then there is Bachar Houli, who injured his hamstring in round one and was rested against the Pies.
Hardwick can surely ill afford to leave him out at Giants Stadium, but on the other hand should he be taking a chance on Houli coming back too soon and potentially losing another key player for a chunk of the season?
Pies are hot in the midfield
Magpies skipper Scott Pendlebury may not hit the headlines like his younger teammates, but he gets the job done. (AAP: Julian Smith)
The big worry for Richmond going in was clearly the defensive side of things — but by the end of the night there were warning bells going off everywhere.
Collingwood clearly had the edge on the Tigers in the middle of the ground. They were plus-two in clearances and plus-two in centre clearances, and a massive plus-23 in contested possessions.
For once, it wasn’t Brownlow vote-hoover Steele Sidebottom — who had what amounted (for him) to a quiet game with 21 disposals and 12 marks — leading the way.
Dayne Beams (36 disposals), showed exactly why the Pies wanted him second time round and Scott Pendlebury (31 touches, six clearances, eight inside 50s and a goal) showed he’s not slowing down as he gets closer to 300 games.
Levi Greenwood was solid, with 20 disposals, five tackles and four inside 50s. Then there was the brilliant Adam Treloar, who racked up 39 possessions — including a dozen contested and four intercepts – plus a goal, all in less than 75 per cent of game time.
The speed and outside run from Tom Phillips made life easier for Collingwood — his two goal assists and eight score involvements were a big factor in the Pies’ ability to hurt Richmond.
On the other side, Richmond’s leading lights were largely quiet, as Hardwick was left to lament the fact his team was beaten in contested and uncontested ball. Dustin Martin had just 19 disposals, Trent Cotchin had 22 and Dion Prestia had 17.
Dustin Martin and his teammates just did not get enough of the ball as the Tigers felt the pressure from the Magpies. (AAP: Julian Smith)
Bear in mind that Buckley opted to play Jordan De Goey deep in the forward line for the vast majority of the match, with a bit of time spent on a wing.
Clearly the five-goal Magpies star has the ability to be thrown into the middle as well if needed — that flexibility is a big plus for Collingwood, and if they can over-run a well credentialled Tigers group without him being needed, that’s a big tick.
Add in the fact that Taylor Adams is still a couple of weeks from returning, while Daniel Wells is reportedly close to resuming full training and the midfield depth of the Pies just gets more and more impressive.
Collingwood gave the Tigers a bit of West Coast magic
The big thorn in Collingwood’s side in last year’s epic grand final was the team’s inability to stop West Coast’s big forwards, who made hay with marks inside 50.
The Eagles set up their win with an avalanche of inside 50s (63-48) and 13 marks inside the arc to Collingwood’s seven — the most memorable of those 13 being Dom Sheed’s grab in the dying stages before he steered home the kick to put West Coast ahead for good.
Against the Tigers, Collingwood produced a reasonable imitation of the Eagles numbers. Their forward entries were even more pronounced, having 64 inside 50s to the Tigers’ 45.
AFL tweet: Dustin Martin missed a shot at one end and the Magpies made the Tigers pay. #AFLTigersPies
With Richmond’s back six struggling to keep them out, the Pies managed 19 marks inside 50 to 11.
The analogy breaks down a little when you note that Collingwood — as discussed above — also dominated contested possessions, something the Pies could not do in the grand final.
Also, clearly Richmond had issues in the backline, and other defences (including West Coast’s) may be much better placed to defend against Collingwood’s attack.
But the combination of midfield strength, outside run, and the ability to break fast, including going coast-to-coast, means the Magpies are a chance to put many sides on the defensive this season.
And if they are giving Mason Cox, Brody Mihocek, De Goey and others the chance to dictate terms inside 50, they will be hard to stop.