Formerly 'putrid' Pies charging towards premiership favouritism

MELBOURNE, Australia -- From the first bounce on Thursday night, Collingwood looked a completely different team to the one that had taken to the Melbourne Cricket Ground just six nights earlier and lost to Geelong in their season-opener.

Nathan Buckley's side immediately appeared more composed, more assured and more structured against Richmond. They were far cleaner through the midfield -- although still far from perfect -- and, unlike against the Cats, they weren't dropping simple uncontested marks. It really was the sort of performance we expected straight off the bat from the Pies.

Despite never really holding a match-winning lead through the first three quarters, Collingwood remained in control and it always felt like a matter of time before they would break the game open. In the fourth quarter, they did. A five goal to one term put the result beyond doubt and saw them chalk up an impressive 44-point win.

"We were really disappointed with how we performed last week. Geelong wanted it a little bit more than we wanted it and that was clearly evident in the last quarter when the game was on the line," star midfielder Adam Treloar told ESPN. "So we came out [this week] with a bit of a chip on our shoulder. We wanted to come out and set a good example from the start and barring that last three minutes of the second quarter, we pretty much did.

"We didn't have to change too much, but we just had to get back to the basics. Be hard at the footy, strong contests and have good balance around the ball. That's what we did and we got a really good win at the end of a day."

It may only have been Round 2, but the pressure was well and truly on Collingwood. After failing to impress and falling to the Cats, the Pies' blockbuster clash against the Tigers was, and this is by no means being dramatic, an early must-win for the pre-season premiership favourites.

Since 2010, there have been 49 occasions where a team has started an AFL season 0-2. How many of them have gone on to play finals that same year? Just three.

Collingwood couldn't afford to be going into Round 3's match against reigning premier West Coast with an 0-2 record and that's what made their response so impressive.

Last week, the Magpies were convincingly beaten in the midfield, but they turned the tables in a big way on Thursday night. Against Richmond, they finished up with 164 more possessions, 23 more contested possessions and 19 more inside 50s.

Another area of weakness against the Cats was their tackling. They missed far too many and ended up losing the count by 15 to Chris Scott's men. However, against Richmond they won it 60-33 and looked much more like the pressure-based side we have become accustomed to seeing.

"Last week we tackled at about a mid-40 percentage which is absolutely putrid," Treloar told ESPN. "We hold our hat on being a really good tackling and pressure team and that was definitely a focus going into the week. No doubt we stuck our tackles this week a lot better than what we did last week."

Despite the considerable improvement, it was far from a perfect game from a Collingwood perspective. Some of their skills and decision-making left a lot to be desired, particularly when entering their forward 50m. Their inefficiency, which did improve as the game went on, meant they left plenty of points on the table.

The hallmark of a great team is not only being able to identify areas of weakness, but quickly rectifying them. On Thursday night, Collingwood did exactly that.