Richmond have won three games in a row for the first time since the start of the last AFL season, holding on for a 23-point win over Hawthorn.
The Tigers continued their resurgence and improved to a 5-4 record on Saturday at the MCG, beating the Hawks 17.15 (115) to 14.10 (94).
Co-captains Toby Nankervis and Dylan Grimes led superbly, while Shai Bolton’s barnstorming second term was also critical and Dion Prestia made a successful return from injury.
The Hawks fought back to within 10 points late in the last term, but the Tigers kicked the last two goals of the match.
Richmond have not won three straight since claiming the 2020 premiership and then the first two games of last season.
Critically the Tigers out-tackled Hawthorn 75-54, won the centre clearances 23-9 and dominated inside 50s 66-45.
But coach Damien Hardwick noted their improved form also comes down to personnel.
Apart from Prestia’s return from injury, Dustin Martin kicked three goals in his second game back.
Noah Balta suffered a hamstring injury, but the Tigers’ personnel issues are easing.
“As we’ve seen Port Adelaide is a great example. All of a sudden, they’re starting to get their cattle on the park and they start winning,” Hardwick said.
“That’s not all of a sudden, can Ken (Hinkley) coach? We’re all a by-product of our players.
“If I’ve got my players on the park, I’m a really, really good coach – trust me.”
Hardwick also put the win down to what he calls “simple brilliance” – doing the fundamentals of the game well.
Specifically, seven of Hawthorn’s eight first-half goals had come from marks.
“At the end of the day, spoil. Pretty easy,” Hardwick said.
“We tidied that part of our game up after halftime, Kingers (assistant coach Adam Kingsley) did a good job getting his backs to get back to simple brilliance.”
Hawthorn’s cause was not helped when veteran forward Jack Gunston suffered an ankle injury late in the first term and eventually had to leave the game.
Just as they pushed Melbourne a fortnight ago, the Hawks lost no friends under coach Sam Mitchell, but could not pull off a major upset.
Unlike last week’s last-quarter fadeout against Essendon, this time they fought to the end.
“The fundamentals of the game were quite difficult to watch today,” a frustrated Mitchell said.
“We invited a lot of pressure from them. That was the frustrating part of the game.
“I was really proud of the boys late in the game.”
While Richmond key forward Tom Lynch kicked four goals, Hawks defender James Sicily restricted him from having a much more productive day and was their best player.
Hawthorn’s Sam Butler was denied a goal on debut by fellow first-gamer Bigoa Nyuon in the third term.
The Richmond backman created enough doubt with his desperate lunge on the goal line for the score to be confirmed a touched behind on video review.
But the review process went on too long for Hardwick’s liking.
“Could they possible take any longer? There’s got to be a chop-off time with that,” he said.
“Crikey, I could have gone down and gotten a cappuccino and walked back up.”