By Hayley Wildes
It was a game that shaped as an early-season blockbuster between two of last year’s best home and away season teams.
The battle between the Casey Demons and Richmond Tigers on Saturday afternoon at Casey Fields certainly lived up to the hype. It was tough, fierce and to say there was a thrilling finish would be an understatement.
After Richmond’s Shai Bolton booted the first goal of the game four minutes in, the game turned into a complete arm wrestle and Casey’s defence stood up under pressure to restrict the Tigers’ potent attack to just one goal for the term.
Having defended well in the opening 20 minutes of the game, Casey slammed on three unanswered goals late in the term. Their first goal, courtesy of Declan Keilty, was a product of some terrific spread and run – the Demons’ first real attacking foray of the contest.
It set the Demons alight and a goal after the siren from skipper Mitch White gave Casey plenty of confidence and a 12-point advantage at the first break.
The second quarter was more of the same; a real contest between two committed outfits. Liam Wale-Buxton booted his first major of the day to push Casey’s lead out to 17 points after seven minutes of play.
Richmond’s Mabior Chol kicked his first major of the day later in the term and despite missing some opportunities, the Tigers headed into half-time with just two goals to their name and the Demons holding an eight-point lead, 4.1 (25) to 2.5 (17).
Richmond got some much-needed offensive output in the third quarter and piled on four goals in 10 minutes to boast a 17-point lead.
Casey’s third quarter simply wasn’t good enough and its inability to hit targets saw Richmond take control of the game. Had the Tigers been more efficient going forward, they would’ve found themselves up by much more than 18 points at the final change.
After coach Jade Rawlings urged his charges to give it all they had at the three-quarter time huddle, the team responded.
Led by Jack Hutchins, the Demons simply wouldn’t go away and after White and Wale-Buxton booted their second goals of the day, Casey was just five points adrift after eight minutes of play.
The play of Wale-Buxton was a highlight for Casey fans and his zest to fight and scrap against Richmond AFL-listed ruckman Ivan Soldo stood out all day.
With Casey pressuring, Beaconsfield local Jake Aarts answered the call for Richmond. His goal against the flow of play saw the Tigers hold an 11-point lead halfway through the term.
Keilty delivered his second goal of the day at the 20-minute mark and when Hutchins slotted a clutch goal with five minutes remaining, the scores were level.
The final minutes were frantic. With the ball deep in Richmond’s forward line, a rushed behind saw the Tigers take a one-point lead and unfortunately Casey was unable to answer.
Richmond came away one-point winners in an enthralling contest, 7.10 (52) to 8.3 (51).
Wale-Buxton was superb for the Demons, while White, Hutchins and the Wagner brothers; Josh and Corey were also impressive. Richmond was led by Shai Bolton and skipper Steve Morris.
Casey owns a 1-2 record and will look to return to the winners list on Sunday against Footscray at Casey Fields from 2pm.