Dustin Martin (left) and Daniel Rioli (centre) lit up the Giants to send the Tigers into the grand final. (AAP: Julian Smith)
The swarm of yellow and black that tonight took over the MCG will be back again next Saturday arvo, with Richmond earning the right to play in the grand final for the first time since 1982 with a 36-point win over GWS.
A tense first half made way for a Richmond procession in the second, as the sensational Trent Cotchin and Dustin Martin willed their team over an eventually sloppy and tired Giants for a 15.13 (103) to 9.13 (67) win.
Cotchin will continue to command headlines this week though, with his early hit on GWS star Dylan Shiel — who was concussed and forced to sit the game out from quarter-time onwards — certain to attract the MRP’s attention.
But Cotchin was able to put that distraction out of his mind for the duration on the clash, clearly the best afield in front of a seriously vocal crowd of 94,258.
The physical intent on the ball and man that may cost him a grand final also saw Cotchin dominate the match, running both ways to stick tackles and influence contest after contest in what might well have been the best game of his career.
Martin too was typically excellent, but the game may well be remembered for the emergence of Daniel Rioli as a finals superstar, continuing his family’s long tradition of standing up in the biggest moments.
Rioli kicked four, all of them coming when the game was very much there to be won, and combined fearsome attack on the ball and his trademark skill and grace to frequently scythe through Giant defenders.
The loss represents the second straight year the Giants have fallen one game short of a grand final, and Leon Cameron’s side will be left with plenty of regret after some critical errors and panicked decisions in the third quarter saw the game get away from them.
Steve Johnson in particular, who was wonderful last week against West Coast, was poor against Richmond and a some inopportune turnovers in the third saw the Tigers seize the initiative.
The Giants were well lead by Josh Kelly and Callan Ward, while Harrison Himmelburg (four goals) made himself the forward option that Jonathon Patton and Toby Greene couldn’t.
So grand final week awaits for Richmond, and with it the nerves while waiting for the game against Adelaide and the MRP’s decisions on Cotchin and Brandon Ellis, whose late bump caught Lachie Whitfield high.
The Crows loom as imposing opposition, but few who saw the Tiger army urge their fast and physical side past the Giants would bet against Richmond.