RICHMOND "got out of jail" against Carlton on Thursday night and has a lot of work to do to improve this season, according to coach Damien Hardwick.
The Tigers fell behind three times in a gripping season opener at the MCG and looked destined for a horror loss before the wasteful Blues left the door ajar in the last quarter with costly missed shots on goal.
Hardwick said his players hadn't handled the Blues' onslaught of pressure and were fortunate not to be starting the season with a loss against the 2015 wooden spooners.
"I think we got out of jail really," the coach said.
"We were probably lucky we were good enough at the end to win the game. We played pretty poorly, it'd be fair to say.
"All credit to Carlton. They came in with a plan and they did a pretty good job. They're probably just not at the level where they could finish us off.
"It's good to tick off the four points, but we've certainly got a lot of work to do."
Hardwick singled out midfielder Kane Lambert for "nearly singlehandedly" getting the Tigers over the line with 12 possessions, three important clearances and two inside 50s in the final term.
He paid tribute to the Blues, who were on the right path under their new coach.
"They got back to that freewheeling footy of a couple of years ago," Hardwick said.
"'Bolts' is a really good coach and he'll get them playing some really good footy pretty quickly, I reckon.
"I think the media people have jumped off them too quickly. They're going to win a lot of games going forward."
Prized draftee Daniel Rioli made a low-key debut with seven disposals and 0.2, but the small forward showed enough to encourage Hardwick, including a chase-down tackle early in the second quarter.
"I certainly thought it was an OK game and he'll build on it," the coach said.
"Every game he's played he's got better and better; we'd just like him to hit the scoreboard a little bit more.
"There's no doubt he's incredibly quick. He's keen to learn also."
The Tigers face Collingwood at the MCG next Friday night and still expect to be without vice-captain Brett Deledio, who is "doubtful at this stage" as he battles a quadriceps problem.
Hardwick was hopeful midfielder Shaun Grigg would return from a thumb injury, while Ben Lennon pushed his case with four goals in a VFL practice match on Thursday.