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Tigers surge late to blunt brave Blues

Highlights: Richmond v Carlton The Tigers and Blues clash in round one
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 24: Dustin Martin (left) and Anthony Miles of the Tigers celebrate during the 2016 AFL Round 01 match between the Richmond Tigers and the Carlton Blues at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne on March 24, 2016. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Dustin Martin and Anthony Miles celebrate Miles' last-term sealer

IT WASN'T straightforward, there were some nervous moments and it took a final-quarter comeback, but Richmond survived a scare to beat Carlton by nine points in the 2016 season-opener on Thursday night.

The scratchy Tigers overcame a nine-point deficit at three-quarter time to kick four goals to one in the final term, clinching a 14.8 (92) to 12.11 (83) win at the MCG in front of more than 75,000 fans.

Click here for full match coverage and statistics

But last year's finalists were never comfortable against the 2015 wooden-spooners, who were a lick of class away from handing Brendon Bolton his first win as coach of the club.

Without a handful of key players, including Brett Deledio (quad), Ivan Maric (back), Chris Yarran (foot) and Shaun Grigg (thumb), Richmond looked set to suffer a demoralising round one defeat when Carlton broke away late in the third term.

Five talking points: Richmond v Carlton

But through the sheer will of midfielder Kane Lambert (27 disposals, seven tackles and a goal), the class of Dustin Martin (24 touches) and runners Bachar Houli and Brandon Ellis, the Tigers clinched the victory with a barnstorming finish.

"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," Richmond coach Damien Hardwick said.

Tigers "got out of jail", admits Hardwick

"We're lucky we had a couple of standout performances. Kane Lambert's last quarter was outstanding, he nearly singlehandedly got us over the line."

WATCH: Lambert's last-quarter domination

The Tigers' tidal wave of final quarter forward entries masked Carlton's competitiveness in an entertaining and tight contest. 

Blues skipper Marc Murphy was at his clinical best with 27 disposals, while fellow midfielders Bryce Gibbs (30) and Patrick Cripps (27, 17 contested) lifted to the occasion.

But the club's batch of five new faces also contributed, with first-gamer and No.1 pick Jacob Weitering excelling with poise in the back half, and Matthew Wright (three goals), Andrew Phillips (one) and Jed Lamb (one) all hitting the scoreboard. Former Crow Sam Kerridge also gathered 24 touches.

Bolton said the club saw it as a missed opportunity.

Lack of class cost us dearly, says Blues boss

"We're disappointed. We always will be when the scoreboard doesn't go our way. [It was] an opportunity lost, particularly when we win the inside-50 count (57-46 entries the Blues' way). It always hurts when you don't win," Bolton said post-game.

How the fans saw the Tigers-Blues season opener

Carlton's enthusiasm was noticeable early, but went unrewarded on the scoreboard. The Blues dominated the first five minutes of the clash, tackling, bumping, winning free kicks and having the first five inside-50 entries of the game.

The Tigers steadied briefly to boot the first two goals, but Carlton responded with four of the next six majors to take a three-point lead into quarter-time.

The Blues' intensity was best epitomised by Murphy, who gathered eight touches and kicked a classy goal from the pocket in the opening term. His counterpart, Trent Cotchin, had one touch for the term.

Heading into the contest, it was hard to see how the Blues would be able to manufacture enough goals to match it with most teams this season. But they found ways against Richmond in the first half. The ball was moved sharply and quickly at every chance, and with purpose.

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Where they lacked direction last season, Carlton not only had a plan against the Tigers. They also followed it. It was modern football built on frenzied forward pressure, an organised zone structure and a buy-in from every player. It was Carlton as we haven't known it.  

But you can't ignore the fact Carlton finished bottom last year, and one summer doesn't eradicate every issue. Some costly errors in defence saw the Tigers reclaim the lead late in the second term and hold a seven-point advantage at half-time, with Ty Vickery kicking three first-half goals from five disposals.

Although the margin was not significant at the main break, it appeared Richmond had cracked Carlton's running game. However, Murphy's zipping run through the middle of the ground two minutes into the second half led to an early goal for Cripps, and the Blues didn't relent.

Richmond got out to a 15-point lead and got comfortable, before Carlton lifted and kicked the next four goals. Bolton's men led by nine points at the final change, with a shock win within their grasp. When Levi Casboult grasped a floating entry 25 metres in front of goal moments into the fourth term, the Blues could sense a commanding position.

But Casboult shanked the kick – his third costly miss for the night – and kept Richmond in the game.

The Tigers seized the moment, with Jack Riewoldt slotting a set shot before Sam Lloyd's spinning blind turn and left-foot snap put the Tigers back in front. Lloyd snapped another (again on his left foot), the Blues' resistance was broken and the Tigers' relief was palpable.

Richmond: Just as the Blues started to lift in the third term, Richmond had some concerns. Key defender Alex Rance spent some time on the interchange bench getting a sore leg looked at, while Shane Edwards also had his hand strapped by club medicos. Both returned to the field and played out the game.

Carlton: It seemed a relatively easy night for the Carlton medical team, with no real injury concerns picked up during the game. The Blues have a 10-day break before their next game so should be able to overcome any knocks or niggles.

The tasks don't get much easier for the Blues, who meet the Sydney Swans next Sunday at Etihad Stadium. Richmond will be hoping to have star midfielder Brett Deledio (quad) available for its Friday night clash with Collingwood at the MCG. Deledio started running again on Friday and is pushing to be fit. 

Sam Lloyd bobbed up with two critical late goals for the Tigers. Picture: AFL Media

RICHMOND     4.1   7.2   10.6  14.8 (92)
CARLTON       4.4   5.7   11.9  12.11 (83)

Richmond: Vickery 3, Menadue 2, Riewoldt 2, Lloyd 2, Lambert, Edwards, Vlastuin, C. Ellis, Miles
Carlton: Wright 3, Everitt 2, Lamb, Gibbs, Kreuzer, Murphy, Cripps, Phillips, Walker 

Richmond: Rance, Martin, Vickery, Lambert, Menadue, Lloyd 
Carlton: Cripps, Murphy, Wright, Gibbs, Kerridge, Docherty 


Reports: Nil

Umpires: Stevic, Fleer, Mitchell

Official crowd: 75,706 at the MCG