REPORTS that Richmond is dead this season are premature as it showed yesterday, producing one of its most stunning performances at AAMI Stadium to upset Port Adelaide by four points.
It was not without its drama as Port, ridiculed for squandering big leads this season, fought back from a 28-point three-quarter-time deficit, only to see its last-gasp shot swallowed by a terrific mark 20 metres out by Joel Bowden on his 30th birthday.
The veteran finished with a career-best 39 disposals and 23 marks, but the most amazing thing about this special day was that it took two kids who had been virtually hidden in the cupboard for years to spark this unlikely win.
Cleve Hughes, in his 13th game in his third year, and Mitch Morton, playing his 20th in four seasons, spearheaded a goal-fest, starting with a club-record nine goals in the first quarter.
Born days apart in 1987, Hughes, who was recruited from Lobethal in the Adelaide Hills via Norwood, kicked six goals and Morton, from Claremont and dumped by West Coast Eagles, kicked five. It is tempting to suggest "move over Richo", but this great win just Richmond's sixth in 22 games here was as much about Matthew Richardson as it was every other Tiger.
Like recent games, coach Terry Wallace used Richardson on a wing for most of the game, and the new-look forward structure stood up for itself and repaid him for the faith. When Richardson went forward, Port knew it couldn't focus mainly on him as in the past because the "kids" were also potent. Result? Richardson kicked Richmond's only goal in a desperately fought last quarter, taking his match tally to a valuable three.
The Tigers' impeccable team play, workrate, tenacity and especially their belief was perhaps the most inspiring their beleaguered faithful fans had witnessed for some time, and while a finals spot remains a dream, at least they have one, which is a lot better than the nightmare at Alberton.
Port's comeback merely disguised the fact that its skill level has declined significantly, and for the most part yesterday it played without passion. The grand finalist has now won only four games and lost nine, and its confidence is near an all-time low. Next weekend it ventures to Darwin to play the Western Bulldogs with injury and match-review panel concerns.
The Power raised the strained hopes of fans when it cut its three-quarter-time deficit, but ultimately it just made the anguish more unbearable.
Port didn't deserve to get close because of its high rate of skill errors and general poor decision-making.
However, to dwell on Port's demise, albeit a valiant late effort, would deny Richmond the praise it deserves for its revival. To recover from Port's impressive start, and to earn the ascendancy through perseverance, was another encouraging sign that there is further quality in that cupboard.
Port dominated the ruck work, was better at the centre clearances and went inside 50 more often, but it was way behind Richmond when it came to efficiency moving into attack. Richmond impressed with its discipline and close checking, and its ability to take a chance at the right time.
The Tigers may have gone too defensive early in the last quarter Wallace later revealed the target was a minimum three goals and they kicked just one but it wasn't as if they stopped running and contesting as Port mounted a quality challenge.
Richmond made errors, but unlike most matches in recent years, it was able to recover because teammates backed each other up, and simply got on with the game.
The match statistics revealed startling differences, with Richmond having 86 more disposals and taking 95 more marks 157-62.
Earlier this year, when Hughes was struggling in the VFL, it was suggested in his home town of Lobethal that he would be better off coming home to play with his childhood club, also known as the Tigers. That day the Adelaide Hills side lost 29 goals-something to a miserable two behinds. On yesterday's effort, it will be a long time before the lad goes home.
RICHMOND 9.1 12.3 19.6 20.7 (127) PORT ADELAIDE 6.2 11.6 14.8 19.9 (123)
GOALS Richmond: Hughes 6, Morton 5, Richardson 3, Brown 2, Cotchin, Hyde, Riewoldt, McMahon. Port Adelaide: Motlop 6, Tredrea 2, Logan 2, Ebert 2, Rodan, Lade, K Cornes, Chaplin, S Burgoyne, Gray, Boak.
BEST Richmond: Bowden, Tuck, Hughes, Foley, McMahon, Morton. Port Adelaide: Cassisi, Motlop, Brogan, Rodan, Boak, K Cornes.
INJURIES Richmond: McGuane (hamstring). Port Adelaide: P Burgoyne (hamstring), Salopek (Achilles strain).
UMPIRES Kennedy, Schmitt, Fila.
CROWD 20,923 at AAMI Stadium.
THE UPSHOT After going for his throat, coach Terry Wallace is finally convincing the fans there is light at the end of the tunnel. Port? Mark Williams is right no hope this season.
TALKING POINT Richmond's new young guns, Cleve Hughes (six goals) and Mitch Morton (five). It's no longer the "Saturday Richo Show".
HOT AND COLD Joel Bowden had a season-best performance 39 disposals while Port's Chad Cornes was hampered by injuries but battled on.