After a stunning first weekend of finals match-ups, fans were shocked by the one-sided contests seen in both semi-finals. One positive is that this upcoming round of preliminary finals should be tantalising.
First Semi Final
Richmond 12.8 (70) defeated St Kilda 6.13 (49)
Early burst and inaccuracy helps the Tigers
Hurting after a surprise loss to the Lions last week, Richmond were brutal in the first quarter. Tom Lynch was back and in form, while Shai Bolton could drift forward and curl home two majors that immediately put St Kilda on the back foot. Shane Edwards was everywhere, creating goals with deft passes and running hard all night.
Dustin Martin continued to make the Saints pay for receiving no harsh tag, and Bachar Houli partnered superbly with Liam Baker off half-back. Their bounce was critical to the win.
But St Kilda lost no fans with a second half comeback. Despite their big outs and lack of accuracy, they seriously troubled Richmond in the final quarter and could’ve gotten over the line if they were more efficient in front of the big sticks. Jack Steele and Hunter Clark proved they’re going to be seasoned finals performers in the coming years, while Nick Coffield did all he could off half-back and Rowan Marshall dominated in the ruck. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be; everyone will be wary of the Saints next year while Richmond motor along in 2020.
Verdict: Richmond will be raring to win a big preliminary final. St Kilda can feel nothing but pride.
Second Semi Final
Geelong 15.10 (100) defeated Collingwood 5.2 (32)
Cats run amuck
This was meant to be the big contest, the blockbuster for the weekend. Fresh off a stirring western win, the Pies were supposed to be on a high. Instead, they were flat and paid dearly.
Geelong, to their credit, executed the perfect first half. Mitch Duncan, Cam Guthrie and Sam Menegola all dominated the midfield, allowing Patrick Dangerfield to waltz forward and kick four goals. The trio smashed Collingwood in the clearances and then ran hard both ways to ensure the Pies couldn’t work the ball quickly down the middle of the Gabba.
Tom Hawkins had a superb game, while most of the Geelong forward line benefited from the barrage of balls entering their area. Tom Stewart and Lachie Henderson cleaned up the rare passes inside their defensive, allowing the seasoned Cats to attack with pace and accuracy. It may have been a dark night for Collingwood, but Geelong deserve an equal amount of praise for their systematic destruction of the black and white army.
Verdict: Geelong have a great chance to make a Grand Final, while Collingwood have an intriguing off-season ahead.
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Week 3 Finals
First Preliminary Final
Port Adelaide v Richmond
Can Richmond join the greats?
There’s no doubting Richmond have been the best team of the last three years. They’ve forged a dynasty based around an exhilarating system. With star-power everywhere, they now have a golden chance to solidify their greatness.
Many great teams don’t get it all their way. Geelong had to bounce back after their 2008 Grand Final upset loss. Hawthorn had to travel to Perth twice in the 2015 finals series and upset the heavily-favoured Dockers to win their third consecutive flag. For Richmond, 2020 could be the year they show how strong they are.
Port Adelaide will be raring to go – they have the right balance and a superb team. Charlie Dixon is key, as is the bounce and goal-sense of Steven Motlop. In the guts, Richmond have a harsh challenge when they face Tom Rockliff, Travis Boak and Ollie Wines. Personally, the two keys for Port are Scott Lycett and Zak Butters. The former is in great form and can destroy Richmond’s vulnerable ruck stocks if he makes himself dangerous up forward. Butters is the heartbeat of this side – if he is courageously putting his body on the line and executing one-percenters then he brings Robbie Gray and Connor Rozee into the game.
For Richmond, Dustin Martin, Jack Graham and Dion Prestia must all be strong in the middle if they are to win the clearances. The Tigers need Noah Balta and Dylan Grimes to hold their own down back so Jack Riewoldt can get into the game if they are to kick a winning score.
Tip: I could easily see Richmond winning this. It’s a massive danger for the Power, but they have the team to do it. After a sapping game last week, I’m going with the Power to get over their nerves and just get over the line. Port by 7.
Second Preliminary Final
Brisbane v Geelong
The youth or the bridesmaids?
It has to be Geelong’s time, or else there’s trouble. A first up loss to Port brought the criticism out surrounding Geelong’s finals problems. But last week saw a heavy change from the Cats; they looked sure and structurally sound in dismantling the Pies.
The pressure is on Brisbane. Beating Richmond in finals gives you some momentum, but they now must recreate the same pressure and efficiency if they are to dispose of the Cats. Lachie Neale, Jarryd Lyons and Hugh McCluggage must all be consistent if they are to break down Geelong’s bounty of midfielders. Eric Hipwood and Charlie Cameron have to become dynamic and dangerous, or else the pressure falls onto Lincoln McCarthy and Cam Rayner. The match-up of the game is Tom Hawkins against Harris Andrews.
The Cats must play like they did last week – if they can control the Gabba and bring their exciting forwards into the game then they are a massive chance. Rhys Stanley has had a terrific finals series, but he faces a new challenge in beating Oscar McInerney. The big key is who becomes more dangerous out of Tom Stewart and Daniel Rich – will either team put a tag on them?Tip: Brisbane have the right team to win this, and deserve to go in as favourites. Geelong can’t be trusted, but preliminary finals are for risk-takers. I’m going to take one – Cats by 15.
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