TOM Lynch was in the thick of the action on return as Richmond booked a spot in the penultimate week of the AFL season for the fourth consecutive year with a 31-point semi-final win over St Kilda.
The Tigers piled on five goals in a first-quarter blitz to seize control and brushed off a second-half challenge in the 12.8 (80) to 6.13 (49) victory at Metricon Stadium.
The result sets up a blockbuster preliminary final showdown with minor premiers Port Adelaide as Richmond continue their quest for back-to-back flags.
Seasoned finals performers Dustin Martin, Bachar Houli and Shane Edwards starred against the Saints and Shai Bolton kicked three goals in a lively display.
Key forward Lynch was influential on his comeback from a hamstring injury with 2.5 but will come under scrutiny for dropping a knee on Dougal Howard’s neck and shoulder area as they tangled during the third quarter.
The Tigers exposed a depleted St Kilda backline that lost Josh Battle and Ben Paton to injury concerns for large periods of the first half after key defender Jake Carlisle had already pulled out during the build-up for family reasons.
Lynch took advantage of Carlisle’s absence and made his presence felt in the opening minute with a strong contested mark against Howard, which he converted into the first goal of the night.
A pair of kind bounces gave Bolton and Kamdyn McIntosh early goals and nothing came easy for the Saints, who needed a 60m bomb from Shane Savage for their first major.
They almost made a mess of a huge numerical advantage ahead of the ball before Dan Butler kicked their second on the quarter-time siren.
Jack Sinclair was denied a goal when the score review was judged not conclusive enough to overturn the umpire’s call that Nick Vlastuin had touched the shot on the line.
The Saints dominated the opening 15 minutes of the third quarter but managed just one goal, through Battle, amid a raft of misses.
It proved costly as Dion Prestia kicked a steadier at the other end to ensure a 23-point margin at the final change.
Seb Ross cut it to 17 points early in the final term but the Tigers responded again.
Jack Steele, Hunter Clark and Dan Hannebery were among the Saints’ best and Rowan Marshall held his own for most of the night in the ruck against Toby Nankervis until the Richmond veteran got on top late.
Young St Kilda star Max King threatened in attack but went goalless from three shots.
(C) AAP 2020
RICHMOND 5.1 9.1 10.4 12.8 (80)
ST KILDA 2.2 3.6 5.11 6.13 (49)
Goals: Richmond: S Bolton 3 S Edwards 2 T Lynch 2 D Martin D Prestia D Rioli J Castagna K McIntosh. St Kilda: D Butler D Kent J Battle J Steele S Ross S Savage.
Umpires: Shaun Ryan, Robert Findlay, Jacob Mollison.
Official Crowd: 13,778 at Metricon Stadium.