Richmond coach Damien Hardwick feels his beleaguered AFL side has improved in recent weeks, but not where it matters.
The Tigers continued their Jekyll-and-Hyde act on Saturday at the MCG, where a 20-point loss to Fremantle was equal parts tenacity and turnovers.
Hardwick’s men bettered the pressure kings in tackles and contested possessions, had 14 more inside-50s and got within 14 points with a tick under six minutes remaining.
But the mountain proved too high, with accurate goal-kicking and decision making under duress the difference as the Dockers won 16.9 (105) to 12.13 (85).
“The boys’ endeavour was there, they attacked the ball and the man hard … unfortunately they just weren’t quite good enough,” Hardwick said.
“Some silly mistakes are costing us goals … (and there were too many) regulation shots on goal we should have kicked.
“We’ve seen improvement, but we’re not getting any wins and that’s how you measure improvement.”
As was the case against North Melbourne last Sunday, a third-quarter fadeout marred what was otherwise a spirited display from the Tigers.
Richmond battled hard to grab the lead late in the second term, only to hand it back before halftime when Hayden Ballantyne kicked two goals in a minute.
When Ballantyne slotted the fourth of his career-best six goals late in the third term, the Dockers had a 39-point lead and booted seven goals on the trot.
Jack Riewoldt was again an enigma, marking and leading well but potting one goal from seven attempts.
“His workrate was very good, I thought he beat his opponent. Unfortunately he’s paid to kick goals,” Hardwick lamented.
Riewoldt jarred his ankle, but Hardwick expects he will be right to tackle in-form Sydney on Friday night.
Anthony Miles and Nathan Foley toiled manfully in the middle for the Tigers.
Fremantle climbed to fourth on the ladder, with a golden chance to effectively lock up a double chance in the finals over the next six weeks when they face teams occupying the bottom half of the ladder.
Nat Fyfe tallied a game-high 32 disposals, while captain Matthew Pavlich kicked three second-half goals.
“At halftime we just spoke about lifting our intensity,” Dockers coach Ross Lyon said.
“We dominated the third quarter … our leaders stood up at the right time.”
Alex Silvagni, recalled due to knee injuries sustained by Fremantle key defenders Luke McPharlin and Michael Johnson, copped a nasty knock early but played on.
“It must be at the minor end, otherwise he couldn’t have done what he did,” Lyon said.
Ex-Melbourne midfielder Colin Sylvia played as the sub in his first game with the Dockers.
“He looked powerful and dangerous in that short sample, I think he’s got a bit to offer us,” Lyon said.