Richmond’s senior players led the way in a 44-point win over St Kilda at Etihad Stadium on Saturday, with skipper Trent Cotchin booting a career-high five goals and picking up 31 disposals.
And while Cotchin played a starring role, defender Alex Rance had a huge game and was praised by coach Damien Hardwick as the best one-on-one defender in the league.
The Tigers bounced out to a 30-point lead at quarter-time. St Kilda fought back by kicking eight goals to Richmond’s seven in the second and third terms, before the Tigers finished strongly with a five-goal effort in the last quarter to win 18.9 (117) to 11.7 (73).
It was Richmond’s first win in five matches and just their fourth of the season, while the last-placed Saints recorded their ninth successive defeat.
Jack Riewoldt, Ty Vickery and Chris Newman kicked two goals each for the Tigers.
St Kilda’s captain Nick Riewoldt struggled against the tight defence of Rance and finished with one goal while Rhys Stanley and Darren Minchington booted two each.
Richmond pair Brandon Ellis and Brett Deledio had 65 touches between them.
“Trent was outstanding at the start and Jack Riewoldt led from the front also and Brett Deledio,” Hardwick told a media conference.
“The good sides, the better players, perform week in week out. We’ve probably been lacking that consistency from those guys.”
Hardwick described Rance, who had 19 disposals and eight marks in his 98th game, as a great talent.
“Alex had an outstanding game today versus Nick Riewoldt,” Hardwick said.
Hardwick laughed at a question about Rance’s occasional moments of mayhem, including a skill error that led to a St Kilda goal late in Saturday’s game.
“He’s a better player than last kick he had across the arc there,” Hardwick said.
“You’ve got to take the good with the bad.
“I don’t think there’s a better one-on-one player in the comp at the moment than Alex.
“He wins the majority of his contests.”
Hardwick said Saturday’s victory was a small step in winning back some respect.
“It’s always good to win. We haven’t had one for a while,” he said.
“We competed really hard. We lacked a lot of polish.”
The Tigers host Brisbane at the MCG on July 5 while the Saints face Carlton at Etihad Stadium the following day.
Jack Steven, Leigh Montagna and Shane Savage were prominent for the Saints.
St Kilda coach Alan Richardson was happy with the performances of Luke Delaney and Jason Gwilt in a backline that was constantly under pressure.
“Certainly early and then again later I wouldn’t have wanted to have been playing in that defence,” Richardson said.
“There just wasn’t enough pressure on the footy coming in.”