MELBOURNE, Australia -- Richmond is two wins away from back-to-back premierships after easing to a 31-point win over Hawthorn in the first qualifying final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The Tigers led by 15 points midway through the third term on Thursday night before a defensive capitulation by the Hawks saw the margin blow out to 35 points by the three-quarter time siren.
Dustin Martin produced a masterclass in his 200th game while fellow midfielders Trent Cotchin and Dion Prestia also played important roles in helping the Tigers secure a home preliminary final for the second straight year.
Here's three things we learnt from the game...
Dusty is peaking at the right time
There were plenty critical of Martin in the early rounds of the home and away season when he appeared to only be operating in second gear, but in the back half of the year he began to lift the intensity and elevate his game to the Brownlow Medal winning form of 2017.
Martin staked claims for best-on-ground honours in the final three matches of the season and his supreme form continued on Thursday night against the Hawks. He was head and shoulders above every other player on the ground, reminding the football world just how damaging he can be in September.
From his crafty stoppage work to contested marking, clever handballs to miraculous goals, Martin put on a clinic at the MCG and was the difference, even with the eventual five goal margin.
By full-time he had amassed 29 disposals (17 contested -- an equal season-high), won a team-high 10 clearances, laid four tackles and kicked a goal that -- had finals been included -- would have been in the conversation for Goal of the Year.
It's also worth mentioning the support he received from his skipper Trent Cotchin who finished the night with 26 possessions and seven clearances, while also making a number of goal-saving tackles and smothers.
Playing the Tigers was already a scary proposition but if these two have hit top gear it really could be curtains for everyone else.
Richmond's perceived pressure is very real
If you had told a Hawks fan that in the first 12 minutes on Thursday night Luke Breust would take two marks inside 50 and Shaun Burgoyne will be given a free kick 15 metres out directly in front of goal, they'd be pretty chuffed.
However, by the midpoint of the first term, Hawthorn had yet to register a major and was already trailing the Tigers by two goals. Breust missed his first opportunity before playing on and wasting the second, while Burgoyne fluffed a golden chance you would have expected him to nail 99 times out of 100.
Why? It was all down to Richmond's perceived pressure and it was a theme that carried right through the four quarters.
While Hawthorn did get into the game, and at one point take the lead, they were never able to settle for large periods. Time and time again, the Tigers forced them into bombing the ball long to an outnumbered forward line -- James Sicily, I'm looking at you -- while Richmond also pressured Alastair Clarkson's men into uncharacteristic mistakes in their defensive 50.
The pressure forced a number of experienced Hawks into rare low efficiency nights, too. Liam Shiels (50 percent), Burgoyne (53 percent), Breust (54 percent) and Jarryd Roughead (54 percent) were all well down on their season averages.
As good as the Tigers are in the pressure stakes, it's really the perceived pressure which leaves opposition teams scrambling and something that could the catalyst for delivering a second flag in 12 months.
Hawthorn has to be braver and bolder
If the Hawks are to face the Tigers again in 2018 it will be in the grand final and you can be certain of one thing: Damien Hardwick's side will ratchet the pressure up a couple more notches.
Given what transpired on Thursday night there will be plenty who won't give the Hawks a chance if this hypothetical does play out, but if they are to enjoy success they must play without fear - something they failed to do in their qualifying final.
Hawthorn refused to take any risks when building from half back. There was no dash, no inboard kicking and no desire to play on. While the Hawks didn't want to get into a fast-flowing contest with the Tigers, they did need to attack with speed, precision and dare. When it's slow and scrappy it plays right into Richmond's wheelhouse.
A quick glance at the stat sheet will say Hawthorn runners Isaac Smith and Jarman Impey weren't awful but neither managed to have much impact. If they do get a second crack against the Tigers these two must get more involved and drive the attack.
But enough about Richmond, Hawthorn needs to fix its attention on either Melbourne or Geelong and first overcome that hurdle.