Tigers make powerful finals statement
IT poured before the first siren, but it was nothing like the deluge of pressure and pizzazz Richmond and Hawthorn had waiting for each other at the MCG.
It was unrelenting.
The question from the outer was clear. How long could the Hawks maintain the rage? It was a while before it was answered.
They led by one point at quarter-time and trailed by just 14 points at halftime.
And the Hawks would've hit the rooms frustrated after Shaun Burgoyne and Luke Breust fluffed simple set-shots from 15m.
If you had to choose two Hawks to kick for your life, they would be No.1 and 2.
They needed to make inroads. Instead they began to implode.
The Tigers schooled the Hawks in the third quarter, and when school dropout Jack Higgins booted his first snag this first qualifying final was done.
The Tigers recorded 15 out of 16 inside 50s in a blitz used to book a home preliminary final and consign the Hawks to their third-straight finals defeat.
That's Richmond's 22nd win in a row at the MCG. Make it 24 and they'll have back-to-back flags for the first time since 1973-74.
Shane Edwards pushed Richmond's lead beyond six goals when the Hawks had only mustered five.
By the final break another question had been answered - a champion coach is no match for a champion team.
All-Australian Hawks Jack Gunston and Luke Breust and their re-signed sidekick Paul Puopolo contributed 42 per cent of the club's goals in the regular season.
The trio combined for 1.2.
Hawthorn fumbles became contagious and Richmond players were kicking the outrageous.
How about Dustin Martin's right-foot snap running to the boundary line in the second quarter?
Martin's 16th disposal might've been the best of his brilliant 200-game career.
It was reminiscent of Jason Akermanis at the Gabba, except Martin wiggled his finger in celebration while Aker covered his mouth in disbelief.
And what about Daniel Rioli? Moments before Martin's magic, Rioli's right foot dribbled through a goal which belied the wet conditions.
It was a goal his recently retired uncle Cyril would've happily claimed. Rioli delivered goals in each of the first three quarters and harassed like hell for four.
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick took away Hawthorn's uncontested marks.
They average 85 under an Alastair Clarkson gamestyle where they look to control a game void of chaos. They took just 50 against the Tigers.
The Tigers' weakness is their stoppage work, ranking 18th for clearances. But they broke even, taking away a perceived Hawthorn edge.
The opening quarter had the hallmarks of a September classic. They combined for 40 tackles before time-on, with Tigers captain Trent Cotchin topping the count with five.
Then, when Cotchin was caught, Liam Shiels coolly converted the free kick into kicked Hawthorn's first goal. There have been 136 tackles on average this year. There were 94 in the first half.
Josh Caddy - outside of mouthing off at James Frawley - was instrumental as a leading target while Dion Prestia carried the ball further than any anyone on a night where large chunks were played claustrophobically.
The Hawks are left hoping Collingwood upsets West Coast on Saturday night.
An Eagles win would see their path to the Grand Final detour to Perth for a possible preliminary final.
But after three consecutive finals losses, Hawthorn first has to bypass a second straight-sets exits in three years, albeit with vastly different teams.
The Dees or Cats await next Friday night.