The warm up
It was the blockbuster of the undefeated, kind of. A question mark hovered over Dustin Martin after he sustained a minor fracture of his right cheekbone the previous week against the Magpies. Only the one change to the Eagles side saw Lewis Jetta come back into the side for Dom Sheed. Both sides were not overly convincing as what their 2-0 records implied, but both were looking to remain undefeated.
Unfortunately, this was far from the game of the round. Although it was close throughout, it almost had a 'next score wins' vibe. With sloppy disposal from both sides, even the usually reliable Sam Mitchell and Dustin Martin were not exempt from the turnovers and miskicks early on. As the game slowly started to open up, the reemerging problems of 'hardball gets' and clearances for the Eagles became apparent again.
Overuse of the ball going inside 50 diminished opportunities for shots on goal. Clearly, there was a message at quarter time to get the ball in earlier. To which was adhered to but the inaccuracy of the delivery along with shots at goal failed to see the Eagles build a lead worthy of their work.
Intercept marking has been the backbone of the Eagles success so far. We saw more of it in this game, leading to goal opportunities. One thing I will say is that the Tigers seemed to have a majority of the play, but the Eagles with intercept marking have the runners that can run end to end in a flash and hurt you on the scoreboard very quickly. Winning the ball in the first instance to enable these runners to run is where the problem lies.
I mentioned last week that goal kicking accuracy the first two weeks of the season was more than likely unsustainable. That the Eagles would have to do more work in the midfield to combat the days where the ball wasn't going through the middle at a 65%+ rate as it had the first two rounds. This week was the perfect example of that.
In trademark Melbourne weather some players ran out onto the ground wearing sunscreen. Only to have it washed away as the rain started to fall with 8 minutes remaining in the third. It was almost like the football gods wanted to give the players an excuse for the sloppy, low scoring game.
Richmond gave themselves the upper hand with a massive 80% of play in their forward half in the 3rd quarter., which turned out to give them an insurmountable lead as the rain became heavier. We were looking at the possibility of a scoreless final quarter until the 20-minute mark with a Tigers goal which all but sealed the game in such a low scoring affair.
Unfortunately, there weren't as many highlight plays at all for the Eagles the entire day. The Tigers threatened to kick away with a Martin goal in the third. Luke Shuey tapped a loose ball into the path of Mark LeCras running along the boundary line. Who then ran inward to snap a major.
The Tigers had the highlights of the day with young Daniel Rioli putting in his claim for goal of the year with a checkside goal as he ran the boundary line.
As I alluded to in my last review, Dustin Martin, although effective against just about anyone, could have a field day with the lack of pressure on opposing mids. And have a field day he did. Although his disposal was inefficient at times his tackling, contested possession wins, clearances and inside 50s to go along with two goals and his match leading 40 touches. His best on ground performance significantly hurt the Eagles.
The momentum changer
In what could have been "what if" moment had the Tigers gone on to lose, with 7 minutes left in the 2nd quarter inside the Eagles forward 50, Todd Elton thought he was back in 2016 as he went third man up giving away a free kick to Jack Darling who slotted the goal.
The ice bath
I didn't agree with the dropping of Dom Sheed. Especially since Lewis Jetta only played limited minutes in the WAFL the previous week. Sheed could have been handy as he is a far superior to Jetta when it comes to contested possession and clearances.
The game was a great chance that the Eagles let slip, to gain some confidence by getting a win at the MCG. A ground, which has been well documented that has not been a happy hunting ground for the West Coast.
It will be a very interesting to see how the Eagles respond after a short turnaround in Thursday night's match against the winless Swans who will be desperate to open their account for 2017.