AFL TIGERS CATS
Richmond have pulled off a great escape to book their spot in the AFL grand final, coming from behind to defeat Geelong by 19 points in a classic preliminary final at the MCG.
In a scintillating Friday night thriller before a raucous crowd of 94,423 fans, the Tigers were outmatched early and challenged by injuries but responded superbly after halftime to boot eight of the last 10 goals and prevail 12.13 (85) to 9.12 (66).
Key forward Tom Lynch was the hero, booting five goals to propel the Tigers' comeback in a performance that reinforced his enormous importance to his adopted club.
Bachar Houli and Dion Prestia were also excellent, while Dustin Martin still managed to boot two goals and gather 22 disposals despite clearly being hampered by a leg issue.
Midfielder Jack Graham showed tremendous courage to play out the game after dislocating his shoulder, while backman Nathan Broad's night ended early when he was left dazed from a friendly-fire collision with Jayden Short.
Geelong sorely missed their spearhead Tom Hawkins, whose one-match ban for striking West Coast opponent Will Schofield was upheld by the tribunal.
Hawkins was replaced by forgotten utility Lachie Henderson, who managed just one goal from five touches.
Richmond will play either Collingwood or GWS in the premiership decider and Lynch will take some stopping after his monster performance.
The athletic forward got the Tigers rolling in the second half with the opening goal, then put them ahead after soaring for a terrific pack mark.
Henderson's goal on the three-quarter time siren reduced the margin to four points to give Geelong some hope.
But Kane Lambert got out the back to extend the Tigers' lead and Lynch's fifth major ensured the 2017 premiers would play their second grand final in three years.
"To be 21 points down in a prelim final where you're not playing particularly well and for the guys to respond, it's where your leaders stand up and I thought our guys did a wonderful job of getting the game back looking like a Richmond game," coach Damien Hardwick said
"It was a pleasing result against a very, very good football side."
Geelong will lament failing to sustain a dominant start.
Led brilliantly by star midfielder Tim Kelly (31 disposals, three goals), the minor premiers bossed the first half to leave the Tigers at risk of repeating last year's preliminary final flop.
Geelong's superior physicality in the early going was notable, as was Rhys Stanley's ruck dominance against Tigers duo Toby Nankervis and Ivan Soldo.
Martin spent extended time on the bench in the first quarter, while skipper Trent Cotchin also copped a knock which left him limping.
Sam Menegola's heroic diving smother to save a Martin goal was a standout moment.
The other was when umpire Ray Chamberlain gave away a controversial 50-metre penalty against the Tigers when Cotchin failed to return the ball to Patrick Dangerfield.
Cotchin's teammate Houli had called for the ball, thinking he had won the free kick, but it was instead paid against the Tigers for impeding Dangerfield's run at the ball.
The subsequent Dangerfield goal kept the momentum with the Cats, who led by 21 points at halftime but probably deserved to be further ahead.
"Right at the moment, we're just not quite good enough," coach Chris Scott said.
"Our players, from where we were 12 months ago, have done a commendable job working our way back into this position. But it doesn't make it feel any easier right now."