Matthew Owies celebrates a goal during the match between Carlton and Richmond at the MCG in round one, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

CARLTON has gutsed out a five-point win over a brave, undermanned Richmond in an entertaining and eventful game at a sold-out MCG on Thursday night.

BLUES v TIGERS Full match coverage and stats

The Blues trailed by eight points at the final break, but finally righted the see-saw lead changes through wave upon wave of attack early in the last term, to keep their perfect start to the year intact with a 12.14 (86) to 12.9 (81) victory.


Compounding the loss for Richmond was a suspected torn right ACL suffered by rising Richmond defender Josh Gibcus in the second term, the young Tiger landing from an attempted spoil with a relatively straight leg and needing to be stretchered off the field.

Charlie Curnow was moved into defence in the final, tense minutes and made a few crucial intercepts against the tiring Richmond forwards after youngster Seth Campbell closed the gap to four, while some strong stoppage work locked the ball up inside the Tigers' 50 in the dying seconds.


The Tigers finished with two fit players on the bench, while Tom Lynch, Dustin Martin and Toby Nankervis were coming off injuries and playing their first games for the year.

Carlton started full of fire and verve, carving Richmond apart with pace down the field and moving the ball with sharp hands. 

But Lynch made an instant impact on return, drawing two free kicks in the first term for two goals, while Martin made an impact in his first quarter for the year, as the Tigers took a surprise 11-point lead into the first break.


Both sides were able to score with relative ease, but Carlton upped the ante in the second term, dominating play and time in forward half. A failure to capitalise on the scoreboard kept the door ajar for Richmond, Maurice Rioli jnr snatching back the lead with a goal on the half-time siren. 

A concussed Tylar Young added to Richmond's defensive woes in the third term, with winger Kamdyn McIntosh and defender-turned forward-returned defender Noah Balta moved into the backline.


Once again, the Blues were unable to fully put the foot on the accelerator despite the quality advantage and weight of numbers in attack, struggling with their entries into forward 50 while Nick Vlastuin intercepted at will.

Vlastuin was simply superb throughout, landing a crucial tackle in the goal-square on Charlie Curnow, which after an extensive score review, was determined to be a holding-the-ball decision, rather than a goal.


Tom De Koning – who had missed several shots earlier in the night – brought the bellowing 83,000-strong crowd to their feet with a sailing set shot from outside 50, taking back the lead at the start of the final term, capitalising on a sloppy 50m penalty conceded by vice-captain Liam Baker.

Mitch McGovern was a rock at centre-half back, producing some of his best footy, particularly in the opening half, while Patrick Cripps (31 disposals) and George Hewett (six clearances) drove the way through the midfield.

Dion Prestia added yet another addition to his extensive soft-tissue injury history, subbed off at quarter-time with a hamstring injury, having come off a five-day break last week.

Curnow finished the game with some painful-looking stitches in his cheek after an accidental boot stud to the face, while Lewis Young received some treatment on a lower leg injury but played out the match.

Gibcus' devastating blow
The young defender is only in his third year on an AFL list, but has already sat out the entirety of 2023 with a serious hamstring issue, and may now miss another season if scans confirm the worst. His athleticism and intercept ability has already been recognised – bestowed Alex Rance's No.18 – and he had returned to the field relatively well before this latest blow. 


Harry answers the critics v2
After yet another summer of hot takes about Harry McKay's goalkicking, the star Blue was outstanding in front of the big sticks for a second week running. He was cool, calm and collected, particularly from long range, and kicked three goals for the game. Arguably more pleasing for Carlton coaches was the fact he laid seven tackles, the equal-highest for the game.


Tall order after Tiger carnage
Richmond already came into the game arguably a tall short, relying on an underdone ruck in Nankervis, a key forward playing his first game in 11 months in Lynch, and Balta to fill the gaps in attack and in the middle. As the injuries began to hit the backline, all plans were thrown out the window – Adem Yze resisted the urge to throw Balta back to begin with, but in the end, the forward line resembled the 2017 edition, with Lynch, Martin and a bunch of small forwards. The ruck was a similar throw-back, with 184cm Marlion Pickett required to pitch in and contribute his best Shaun Grigg impersonation.


CARLTON           3.3     6.9     9.11     12.14 (86)
RICHMOND        5.2     7.4     11.7     12.9 (81)

McKay 3, Owies 2, Curnow 2, Kennedy, Hollands, Cottrell, Cerra, De Koning
Richmond: Balta 3, Lynch 2, Martin 2, Taranto, Short, M. Rioli, Baker, Campbell

Carlton: Cripps, McGovern, McKay, Saad, Hewett
Richmond: Vlastuin, Hopper, Balta, Nankervis, Taranto

: Nil
Richmond: Prestia (hamstring), Gibcus (knee), Young (concussion)

: Corey Durdin (replaced Orazio Fantasia at three-quarter time)
Richmond: Rhyan Mansell (replaced Dion Prestia at quarter-time)

Crowd: 83,881 at the MCG