Round 17 report: Richmond vs Werribee

Much like in the AFL, the toughest task in VFL football right now involves a trip to Yarra Park to take on Richmond. On Saturday, Werribee found out just how difficult an assignment that can be.

The visitors’ 86-point defeat at the hands of the ladder leader was their heaviest of the year, though it wasn’t until the final term, as the sizeable and vocal “Tiger Army” that had descended on Punt Road’s Swinburne Centre began to thin in preparation for the short pilgrimage to the ’G, that the margin really began to stretch.

A goal at the 21-minute mark of the third quarter to Tom Gribble, brought about by some lovely footwork by second-gamer Jake Riccardi, had the deficit at 35 points. It wasn’t exactly close, but with Werribee having produced a mighty run for home against Richmond earlier in the year, it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility to believe it might again give things a shake in the last quarter.

It wasn’t to be. The reply came from Noah Balta just moments later, and just like that, the floodgates opened. The home side proceeded to kick another seven unanswered goals to round out the game, Werribee restricted to just one behind through the final term.

It was a bitterly disappointing end after the effort of the visitors to restrict their opponents through much of the second and third terms. Richmond had kicked six of the opening seven goals of the game to lead by 35 points early in the second term before consecutive goals to Josh Porter and Andrew Hooper had helped drag Werribee back into the contest.

But it proved to be the only bit of scoreboard momentum the boys in the “big W” would generate for the day. Despite controlling possession for large stages either side of half time and getting on top in the forward-entry count, they simply could not capitalise on their opportunities in front of goal, too often banging long in hope rather than finding a clear target and at times even seeming reluctant to take the scoring shots that did present themselves.

When Werribee did manage to look threatening in its advance to goal, it more often than not came on the back of a burst through the middle from Michael Sodomaco. The skipper was back in the midfield for a second week in a row and for a second week in a row led from the front as his side’s best player, collecting a team-high 28 disposals and combining strongly with Tom Gribble (25 disposals, seven clearances) as a key winner of the ball at its source with five clearances of his own.

If there were shortcomings exposed in Werribee’s defensive structures by Richmond’s late scoring flurry, it certainly wasn’t in the tackling department. Outdone in that area by the Northern Blues last week for one of the rare times this season, the visitors hit back to out-tackle the home side 64-43, and no one was more instrumental in that effort than Dom Brew. With 12 tackles to go with his 16 disposals, he again stated his case as one of the competition’s leading defensive midfielders.

Adding to the disappointment for Werribee was the fact it was unable to deliver a more memorable result for Kurt Aylett in his 50th VFL match, a milestone he has had to overcome some serious adversity to reach. Nonetheless, Aylett himself was one of his side’s best with his 23 disposals and seven marks in a new role down back, while the key defensive pillars of Sam Collins (23 disposals, seven marks) and Nick Coughlan (17 disposals, six marks) were also standouts on what proved a difficult day for the visitors’ back six.

After a tough two weeks, Werribee will have a prime opportunity to make amends and restore some pride when it travels to Piranha Park on Saturday to take on Coburg in its final away game of the year.

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