Richmond has won the last five matches against the Saints, but they will prove no easy-beats on Saturday afternoon. They have been acclaimed throughout this season for their capacity to stifle opponents with an intense physical approach. Richmond Defensive Coach Ben Rutten, speaking as part of this week’s edition of Roar Vision’s Opposition Analysis, says of the Saints... “Their game’s underpinned by their ability to put pressure on the opposition, so we’re expecting that this week”.
With Richmond liking to play high a possession game this season, against the Saints, they will have to be careful to not overuse the ball. One hopes they are better equipped to take marks inside-50 against St. Kilda, given that this went missing in the previous round. The Tigers have been strong in contested marking this season though – ranked equal-third (12.6 a game) while the Saints are ranked equal-seventh (12.1 a game). However, Richmond has struggled to get the ball inside-50 throughout the 2016 season; ranked 17th and averaging 46.1 a game. St. Kilda meanwhile is middle of the road in this area, ranked 10th at 52.2 forward entries a game.
The key to this match will lie in which young team can perform at its best for longer, with both teams suffering fade-outs against top eight teams in the previous round. For Richmond, this will mean they will have to nullify the influence of midfielder Jack Steven. He is averaging 28 disposals per game this season and he’s ranked second in the competition for inside-50s. Of Steven, Rutten says “his ability to run, break the line and deliver to their forwards is really important”. The Tigers are also wary of the Saints’ potent forward setup featuring the likes of Tim Membrey, Josh Bruce, Paddy McCartin and Nick Riewoldt (who has spent a bit of time further up the ground as well this season). Membrey has kicked 40 goals in 15 games; Bruce has 35 from 20 games, Riewoldt 31 from 19 and McCartin 12 from 10. Rutten believes they are all really mobile, mark the ball on the lead and have been kicking some goals as well – there are danger signs for the Tigers if they are not switched on from the opening bounce.
A look over the history books actually sees that Richmond has won the last six clashes between the sides, ending the Saints’ dominance of 13 wins from 14 contests. However, the Tigers haven’t won seven in a row over the Saints since 1945-1949. Finals are out of the question now for both, but there is plenty to gain as young players search for confidence. The Tiger faithful will be hoping to see the boys in Yellow and Black show a four-quarter dominant display to get the bragging rights of having the best Riewoldt in the league and to also notch up just their ninth win of the season.
What do you think will happen on Saturday afternoon?