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Tigers lock away top spot

Tigers lock away top spot

RICHMOND has dashed Essendon’s finals hopes and all but secured top spot on the AFL ladder with a hard-fought eight-point win at the MCG.

The Tigers were cruising at 33 points up in the final term but had to hold off a late blitz by the Bombers to record the 12.9 (81) to 11.7 (73) in front of 76,424 fans on Friday night.

Dustin Martin (26 possessions) and Josh Caddy starred with four goals apiece in the victory that extended Richmond’s record-breaking run of wins at the ground to 20.

The Tigers led by a game-high 33 points when Martin kicked his fourth early in the final term, but Cale Hooker kicked three goals to set up a tense finale.

Zach Merrett missed a tough shot in the dying minutes for Essendon, and Daniel Rioli sealed the win with a brilliant chase-down tackle of Bombers speedster Adam Saad.

Ominously for the rest of the competition, Damien Hardwick’s men secured the win without premiership skipper Trent Cotchin and grand final stars Dion Prestia, Kane Lambert and David Astbury, who were all out injured.

David Zaharakis (30 disposals), Devon Smith (28) and Dyson Heppell (25) were influential for the Bombers.

Essendon started brightly enough, but the Tigers kicked four goals straight to lead by nine points at quarter-time.

Smith suffered a moment of madness and can count himself lucky his wild left-arm swing missed Kamdyn McIntosh’s jaw by the barest of margins.

Hardwick’s men ramped up the pressure in the second term but couldn’t capitalise on a lopsided 18-8 inside 50 count for the quarter.

They scored six behinds before Caddy converted from a tight angle to restore an eight-point advantage at halftime.

Caddy goaled from two spectacular marks in the third term as the Tigers set up a 21-point lead at the last break

Hooker was well-held by Alex Rance, but he gave his side a faint hope with his three-goal burst in the last quarter before Richmond steadied to see off the challenge.

Practising Muslim players Bachar Houli and Saad embraced at the coin toss before the game in a show of solidarity after divisive remarks made by Senator Fraser Anning in federal parliament this week.

The Tigers host the Western Bulldogs in round 23, while the Bombers will end the home-and-away season against Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval.

© AAP 2018

RICHMOND 4.0 5.6 10.8 12.9 (81)

ESSENDON 2.3 4.4 7.5 11.7 (73)

Goals: Richmond: D Martin 4 J Caddy 4 J Riewoldt 2 J Castagna L Baker. Essendon: C Hooker 3 M Brown 2 D Parish D Smith J Stringer M Baguley T Bellchambers T Colyer.

Umpires: Ray Chamberlain, Shane McInerney, David Harris.

Official Crowd: 76,424 at MCG.