MELBOURNE has announced itself as a genuine AFL flag threat, extending its unbeaten start to the season with a stunning 34-point win over reigning premiers Richmond in the Anzac Day eve clash.
The Demons kicked four unanswered goals during the second quarter to take control of a tough contest as rain fell at the MCG on Saturday night, setting the platform for a 12.10 (82) to 6.12 (48) victory.
The result was the perfect way to celebrate club stalwart Nathan Jones’ 300th game and improved Melbourne’s record to 6-0, in what is now their best start to a season since 1965.
Richmond’s recent dominance over the competition has been underpinned by their famed pressure and surging attack, but it was the Demons who mastered those arts in wet conditions.
Christian Petracca (38 disposals), Clayton Oliver (36) and Christian Salem (39) starred in the midfield as Kysaiah Pickett showed exciting flashes and Tom McDonald kicked three goals, justifying his place in attack after fit-again Sam Weideman and Ben Brown were overlooked.
Steven May returned from a nasty eye injury and marshalled Melbourne’s defence, shutting down Tigers forward Tom Lynch in the process.
The battle between explosive midfielders Petracca and Dustin Martin was a huge focus of the build-up and it was the Demons’ challenger who had a far greater impact than the game’s pre-eminent star.
Petracca registered 10 clearances, six tackles, seven inside-50s and a goal in a massive contribution.
In stark contrast, Martin (eight disposals) was kept quiet by Dees stopper Michael Hibberd in his 250th game and sat out the final quarter on the bench with concussion after copping a stray arm to the head.
Earlier, Richmond had dominated the early exchanges and spearhead Jack Riewoldt cashed in with the first two goals to help his side build a 15-point lead before Melbourne managed a score.
But the Demons weathered the storm and upped their pressure late in the first term, piling on seven consecutive goals to open up a match-winning 30-point lead soon after half-time.
The Tigers were rattled late in the match, with Pickett’s sealer from a free kick and subsequent celebration sparking a melee a few minutes before the final siren.
The only sour note for Melbourne was McDonald’s high strike on Dylan Grimes off the ball during the third quarter, which will come under scrutiny from the match review officer.
Shane Edwards (24 disposals and two goals) and Shai Bolton worked tirelessly for Richmond.
Melbourne will start favourites against North Melbourne next week, while the Tigers face a huge Friday night clash with the ladder-leading Western Bulldogs.
(C) AAP 2021
MELBOURNE 2.2 6.6 10.8 12.10 (82)
RICHMOND 3.3 3.7 5.8 6.12 (48)
Goals: Melbourne: T McDonald 3 A Neal-Bullen 2 B Fritsch 2 L Jackson 2 C Petracca C Salem K Pickett. Richmond: J Riewoldt 2 S Edwards 2 J Aarts S Bolton.
Umpires: Jeff Dalgleish, Andrew Stephens, Nathan Williamson.
Official Crowd: 56,418 at MCG.