A five-goal haul from Mat Walker and a late charge home proved not enough for Box Hill, falling 14 points short of Richmond on Sunday afternoon.
Despite trailing by 37 points at three-quarter time, Coach Max Bailey urged his side to put everything on the line, in a determined effort to celebrate favourite son David Mirra’s 150th game in style.
The reigning premiers responded to pile on six goals to two, sparking a full house at Box Hill City Oval to life.
But a Coleman-Jones major at the 28thmin ensured the second-placed Richmond held on to victory in a frenetic conclusion.
The day began in celebratory fashion, with the home side running out through a banner amid a rapturous applause to mark the historical 150 game milestone to former Premiership Skipper David Mirra.
From the outset, the Tigers had set themselves on spoiling the party.
A Jacob Townsend snap from beyond the arc, tumbled past all sets of hands to register the first goal of the day.
Hawk playmaker Teia Miles responded immediately, executing a tight set-shot to take the slim lead.
But it was the visitors who dominated the next 30 minutes of play.
A spilt Jiath chest mark gifted Oleg Markov a checkside from the goal square for his first major of the day, while Patrick Naish and Markov, again, converted set shots.
A destructive term from the Tigers’ reached a climax when Toby Nankervis marked and put his set-shot through after the siren for the Tigers sixth goal of the term.
Richmond had locked the ball in its forward 50 to great effect, gaining 20-9 inside 50s and capitalising on the scoreboard to take a 21-point lead into the quarter time huddle.
Tiger Dan Butler gave the visitors the perfect start to the second term, trapping a spearing pass and executing a back-heel dribbler.
If ever Box Hill needed a statement from its inspirational Premiership Skipper, it was now.
On cue, Andrew Moore marked the ball inside 50, and slotted a suburb set-shot from the boundary line, receiving a mammoth roar from the City Oval grandstand.
Moore’s special provided the perfect platform for Hawk young gun Mat Walker to assert himself on the contest.
Walker slammed back-to-back goals, his first a snap floating through the goals at post height while his second perfectly guiding a left to right set-shot with the wind, giving Box Hill the spark it craved.
Three goals in quick succession had suddenly cut the margin to nine points midway through the quarter.
But up the other end, Richmond had its own dangerman.
The dynamic Oleg Markov was giving Box Hill defenders headaches, this time holding out his opponent to mark the ball on his chest and slam home his third goal for the half.
The goals dried up in the third term, with neither side able to execute when going inside 50. Box Hill attempted to control the ball by foot, while Richmond looked to typically surge the ball forward by hand.
It took 14 minutes before Richmond’s Menadue broke the drought. His goal from an acute angle from beyond the arc sparked a three-goal run for the visitors.
The Tigers made the Hawks pay from turnovers, bursting straight through the centre square time and time again with efficient ball use.
It left Box Hill looking at a near-impossible equation at the three-quarter-time huddle up against a formidable Tigers outfit.
37 points needed for victory.
But today was not the day to hold up the white flag.
Instead, Box Hill began to slowly but surely resurrect its pulse.
The Hawks methodically pierced the ball from its back half, splitting Richmond’s set up behind the ball.
Mat Walker kick-started the momentum, putting through the Hawks first goal for the term at the eighth-minute mark.
In quick succession, the clever Jackson Ross and Vincent Adduci got in behind their opponents and secured running goals out the back.
Midfielder James Cousins then launched a booming major from well behind the 50m arc, while Walker continued his day out. A fifth goal sealed a break out performance, and well and truly stamped his presence on the VFL.
A run of four goals in the final term injected hope into the hearts of the Box Hill faithful and laid seeds of doubt in the Tiger Army.
But just as time was becoming the home side’s enemy, Richmond held its nerve with a major in the dying minutes.
The bitter-sweet defeat resulted in a disappointing conclusion for the Box Hill Hawks on a historic day for the club.
Skipper Andrew Moore led from the front against his former side, racking up 32 disposals, six marks, five tackles and a goal.
The Hawks were well served in the ruck by Jonathon Ceglar (20 disposals, eight marks and 26 hitouts) and Marc Pittonet (14 disposals, seven marks, 21 hitouts and a goal).
It provided great service to the likes of James Cousins who gathered 27 disposals and a goal, and Teia Miles who produced a season-best 30 disposals (26 kicks), eight marks and a goal.
In his 150th match, David Mirra was typically valiant on the last line of defence, recording 22 disposals, 13 marks and five rebound 50s. Kaiden Brand also proved hard to pass in his 50th game for Box Hill, gathering 14 disposals, five marks and five tackles.
Senior Coach Max Bailey identified the side’s room for improvement post-match.
“We were pleased with the second-half, that we were able to get it back on our terms somewhat. But the first half we let them play their way, and we played into their hands quite a bit,” Bailey said
“They got through us, we weren’t able to defend their full ground transition, and they were able to win the contested ball battle.”
“That’s what hurt us in the end.
“Everyone knows the way Richmond want to play, it’s another thing trying to stop that. They made us look pretty poor at times.
“We are looking for more on even contribution from our guys. We don’t need anyone in particular winning us the game – we want an even spread.
“Our best is well and truly good enough; we saw that at the beginning of the year and against Geelong a few weeks back. But we need to close the gap with our worst performances.
“Consistency is what everyone craves in any form of life, and that’s what we are after now. That’s got to come from me as a coach and it’s got to come from our leaders as players.”
As the race for finals heats up, Box Hill heads into its final bye of the season sitting in sixth position on the VFL ladder – with seven wins and six losses.
BOX HILL HAWKS 2.2 5.4 6.6 12.8 (80)
RICHMOND 5.5 8.6 12.7 14.10 (94)
Box Hill Hawks: Walker 5, Ross 2, Pittonet 1, Adduci, Cousins, Miles, Moore
Richmond: Markov 4, Butler 2, Menadue 2, Naish 1, Silvestro, Coleman-Jons, Grewar, Nankervis, Townsend
Box Hill Hawks: Moore 32, Miles 30, Cousins 27, Mirra 22
Richmond: Naish 31, Eggmolesse-Smith 26, Grewar 19