After an electric start and gallant fight back, the windy conditions blew the lead out of reach for the Zebs in the final quarter on Saturday afternoon.
Photography: Chloe Williams
The lead swung in accordance with the breezy conditions at the Swinburne Centre on Saturday, leaving the Zebs unable to hold on in the final stages.
Saints-listed Ben Paton (35 disposals, six marks, three clearances) was a stand out on the day, with counterparts Jack Bytel (30 disposals, six clearances) and Max Heath (one goal, 17 disposals, nine marks, five tackles) also making their mark on the match. Tyson Milne (25 disposals, seven marks) put on a show down back whilst captain Anthony Seaton (1 goal, 17 disposals, 7 marks) was influential around the contest.
The trying conditions made for a day in which precision was vital - the ball being carried by the wind both around the ground and in front of goal.
Both Seaton and Bytel used this to their advantage, launching impressive long-range goals in the third quarter to convert a major score.
Unfortunately, the conditions proved too tough as the Tigers brought their bite into the final term - overrunning the resurgent Zebs.
The Zebs started with energy from the first bounce, with a Paton intercept mark allowing an opportunity for Jack Peris to find Isaac Keeler thirty-five metres out. Kicking with the wind, the ball hit the wood to register a behind. Tomo Owens was able to enter inside fifty again moments later, with Keeler presenting with a strong mark once more. The wind remained an issue with his attempt resulting in another minor score.
Ten minutes into the quarter, the Zebs began to warm into the game - putting their skills on display with a series of handball chains through the corridor and wing respectively. Keeler remained ever-present, producing a sharp snap which failed to provide him reward for effort. Our inside fifty pressure remained high whilst we won both the possession and territory battle, with Peris able to capitalise on these numbers moments later - slotting it through from fifteen metres out in the sixteenth minute.
Continuing to lead the inside fifty count 8-2, Leo Connolly capitalised on the balls' retention as he launched a booming shot from a free kick, resulting in a minor score. Moments later, Noah Gown was able to convert his set shot attempt which followed an impressive pack mark, adding a goal to the board for the Zebs once more.
A Tom Blamires smother denied a certain reply from the Tigers, whilst Max Heath and Tom Campbell worked their way into the game with their strong hands and presence.
Paton finished the quarter with 10 disposals, whilst Milne and Vincent Zagari registered six disposals each.
Three minutes into the second quarter, the Zebs blazed away inside fifty once again off the back of the hard-running Peris. A chance was created for Olli Hotton, whose attempt was carried by the wind for a minor score. Paton remained prolific around the contest, bringing both heat and energy as the midfield group brought a noticeable increase in pressure. Peris led the way up up forward, too, laying three tackles at this stage of the game.
The Zebs spent the first half of the quarter defending strongly, ebbing the flow by the fourteenth minute mark as they held up play and managed to regain time in possession. Continuing to present, Seaton saved a certain goal in the twenty-second minute, coming off victorious in a one-on-one battle deep inside defensive fifty. The Zebs' work-rate carried on moments later as Gown laid the bump of the day, creating a strong reaction amongst the growing crowd.
Jake Lohmann capitalised on a fifty metre penalty two minutes later, running into an open goal square to keep the Zebs in the game. His contest caused a show of rivalry between both teams and Lohmann himself remained spirited - popping up again moments later to lay an impressive smother.
As the siren sounded, Paton remained ever-present with 21 disposals whilst Bytel increased his tally to 11.
The third term began with a bang as Heath lined up for a set shot only fifty seconds after time restarted. Heath made the goal umpire's job easy, with his booming kick landing straight between the sticks to get the Zebs back within eighteen points. The intensity lifted following Heath's goal, with a smart switch play through Zagari and Matthew Harms creating another chance inside fifty.
Heath and Zaine Cordy continued to present, putting their intercept skills on display, whilst Milne and Lohmann began to impact the game. The ball was retained in our forward half following a gallant spoil from Oliver Lowe as our inside fifty pressure began to improve. Capitalising from repeat forward fifty entries, Keeler crashed the pack, allowing Harms to collect the crumb and convert a classy snap - a brilliant play labelled by the commentators as 'opportunistic' when it mattered.
The wind began to influence the game, affecting the accuracy of both teams' foot skills. The twenty-seventh minute mark saw the Zebs utilise the conditions for their benefit, with Seaton launching from just inside fifty, allowing the ball to ride the breeze and sail in for a major score. An impressive James Van Es intercept mark created an opportunity for Bytel moments later, who set up for a shot from outside fifty. Following in the footsteps of Seaton, Bytel used the wind and a sweetly-timed kick to launch straight over the umpire's head - adding a goal to his already impressive game so far.
Paton finished the quarter with 30 disposals whilst Bytel accumulated 20 disposals and five clearances to go along with his goal.
Seaton and Lohmann began the final term strongly with their intercepting ability put on display, but the class continued to be put on display as the Zebs took the game on through the corridor in search of the lead.
The seven minute mark presented aggressive kicks down the middle on two occasions, backed up in the ninth minute with a chain of play involving Gown and Owens, landing in the hands of Keeler. Registering a behind, the Zebs found themselves only four points down with eleven minutes to play.
Heath and Van Es continued to present strongly, but the breezy affair proved too much of a battle for the Zebs. Paton remained our major influence on the day - accumulating 35 disposals - whilst Bytel recorded an impressive six total clearances and Heath produced a game-high of nine marks.
Ultimately, the Tigers were better quipped to combat the trying conditions, clawing their way to a 32-point lead by the final siren.
Final Score: Sandringham Zebras 7.13 (55) defeated by Richmond Tigers 12.15 (87)
Goals: A. Seaton, J. Bytel, J. Lohmann, J. Peris, M. Harms, M. Heath, N. Gown.