Richmond’s AFL premiership defence has opened with a major scare before powering away from Carlton for a 26-point win at the MCG.
Brownlow Medallist Dustin Martin and Blues young guns Patrick Cripps and Charlie Curnow starred as the Tigers won 17.19 (121) to 15.5 (95) on Thursday night in a pulsating start to the season.
The blockbuster crowd of 90,151 is a record for round one and the 11th best for a home-and-away match.
Injuries cruelled the Blues’ chances of a massive upset, with Matthew Kennedy forced out of the game before half-time and star ruckman Matthew Kreuzer hobbled by a groin injury in the third term.
Still, Carlton showed plenty of signs that this might be a breakout season when they kicked the first five goals of the match.
As always in round one, fatigue became a big factor through the second half and the Tigers wore the Blues down.
Richmond closed out the match with six goals to three in the last term.
Four of Carlton’s goals resulted from 50m penalties, the product of an AFL crackdown on the protected zone.
The evening started with Richmond’s pre-game ceremony to unfurl its historic premiership flag.
But Carlton immediately busted the party wide open.
The Blues stunned Richmond with five goals in the opening 11 minutes.
Richmond just as quickly stopped the rot, rallying with the next four goals and only trailing by nine points at the first change.
Blues captain Marc Murphy was on fire in the first quarter with 10 possessions, but his influence diminished as the game continued.
Carlton kept pressing, but lost GWS recruit Kennedy in the second term with a rolled ankle.
Kreuzer, the best big man on the ground, was off for most of the third quarter with a groin injury.
He returned in the last term with his leg strapped, but clearly was playing sore.
After trading two goals apiece with Carlton in the second quarter, Richmond hit the front for the first time at the start of the third.
That sparked a goal-for-goal shootout and the lead changed nine times.
Curnow kicked his fifth goal at the start of the last quarter to give the Blues the lead again, but it proved their last shot.
After Richmond booted three behinds to spark the ninth lead change of the second half, some Martin brilliance was the turning point.
He kicked an inside-out goal on the run to put the Tigers seven points ahead.
Richmond bagged the next three goals in five minutes to kill off Carlton’s impressive challenge.
Cripps was best afield with 36 disposals, including 25 contested possessions, while Martin led the way for Richmond with 32.
Curnow and Matthew Wright kicked five goals apiece, while Jack Riewoldt and Jacob Townsend had four each for Richmond.