RICHMOND has held off a fast-finishing Carlton to break a nine-game hoodoo against the Blues and hand Mick Malthouse a five-point loss in his return to coaching.
However, the Tigers made hard work of it after leading by 42 points midway though the third term before a Carlton onslaught almost stole the show.
But the Tigers managed to do something they weren't able to on numerous occasions last year – they scraped to victory. But only just.
In front of a huge crowd at the MCG on Thursday night, Carlton kicked the last five goals of the game and might well have won if either of Chris Yarran's two shots in the dying stages went straight.
Five talking points: Carlton v Richmond
Alas, both shots – a left foot snap that would have levelled the scores, and another on the run from 35 metres that would have stolen a one-point lead – missed and Richmond won 14.22 (106) to 14.17 (101).
Tigers coach Damien Hardwick was naturally relieved about the result
"I had faith in the boys that they'd come out with the desired result, but there were a couple of stages there where they were just getting forward of the ball," he said post-match.
"We got belted in contested ball in the last quarter and they controlled the game. We were fortunate enough to come out with the result, which was pleasing."
A disappointed Malthouse said Richmond was the better side on the night.
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"(In the) clearances we gave away too much to Richmond, who were very, very good in that second (quarter) and even to the point of the third quarter where they beat us comfortably," he said.
"We got back but it was very late by that stage."
Richmond duo Brett Deledio (17 disposals and 3.1) and Tyrone Vickery (15 touches, nine marks and also 3.1) were the most influential players on the ground – Deledio electrifying in the midfield while Vickery magnetised the ball in attack to take a swag of marks. They kicked three goals apiece.
New skipper Trent Cotchin (33 touches) was also as constant for the winners.
Carlton boasted a similar trio in Chris Judd (27 disposals and 2.1) and Shaun Hampson (eight marks and 1.2), who, along with reinvented midfield star Bryce Gibbs (a game-high 34 touches, including an equal-high 16 contested, and 2.1), were largely responsible for keeping the Blues in the contest.
It was a remarkable transformation after the Tigers appeared home at half-time when they led by 38 points.
As Australian rock legend Russell Morris entertained the crowd during the long break with a rendition of his mega-hit The Real Thing
, Tiger fans began to dream that it might finally be an apt description of their team.
They were dominating in every facet of the game and the result would have been a foregone conclusion (if it wasn't already) if not for Richmond's inaccurate kicking – 9.14 and one on the full.
The Tigers' emerging midfield smashed their star-studded Carlton rivals at the stoppages, they linked up superbly with crisp ball use, their pressure forced the Blues into numerous errors, and they boasted a powerful key forward in Tyrone Vickery.
But then the Blues turned the tables dramatically and gave the Tigers serious jitters.
Compounding matters for Carlton, Yarran was reported for striking Bachar Houli in the third term
The match also featured the first invocation of the concussion substitution rule when Carlton's Mitch Robinson was knocked out and walked off the field to be replaced by Aaron Joseph.
Next week, Malthouse faces another stern test against former club Collingwood at the MCG on Sunday while the resurgent Richmond takes on St Kilda at the same venue on Friday night.
It's the first time since 2008 that Richmond has knocked off the Blues in their now-annual season-opener, having lost their previous four by an average margin of 50 points.
3.3 4.6 9.12 14.17 (101)
2.9 9.14 14.18 14.22 (106)
Gibbs 2, Judd 2, Betts 2, Murphy 2, Kreuzer 2, Garlett 2, Yarran, Hampson
Deledio 3, Vickery 3, McGuane 2, King 2, Jackson, Martin, Conca, Houli
Judd, Kreuzer, Gibbs, Betts, Simpson, Armfield
Deledio, Cotchin, Vickery, Maric, Martin, Tuck
Mitch Robinson (concussion)
Aaron Joseph replaced Mitch Robinson (concussion) in the second quarter
Brandon Ellis replaced by Robin Nahas in the fourth quarter
Chris Yarran (Carlton) for striking
Rosebury, Meredith, Mollison
80,971 at the MCG