AMONG all of the uncertainty that has faced the globe this year, there was something comforting about the familiarity of Richmond's first-half dominance on Thursday night.
Beginning the season without fans in an eerie MCG atmosphere due to the supporter lockout in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, the reigning premiers did enough throughout a rampant start to the game to hold off Carlton's brave late surge.
The Tigers' 24-point win was architected in the first term, where they booted the opening five goals of the match to lay the foundations for their comfortable 16.9 (105) to 12.9 (81) victory.
TIGERS TAME BLUES Full match coverage and stats
Carlton kicked six of seven goals on either side of three-quarter time to ensure the contest was given late life, but the reliability of Richmond stars like Jack Riewoldt, Dustin Martin and Trent Cotchin ensured the Tigers won their 10th straight outing over the Blues.
Riewoldt kicked three early goals, while Martin (24 disposals, one goal) and Cotchin (19 disposals, seven score involvements) ensured Richmond had the legs to hold off a late fightback from its opponents.
Recruit Jack Martin was Carlton's standout, booting four third-quarter goals in an impressive display. But ultimately it wasn't enough as the Blues were made to rue a lethargic start.
WEIRD NIGHT Season kicks off in silence
Jack puts the early jets on
Richmond's dominant opening quarter was inspired by Jack Riewoldt. The star forward took four grabs inside 50 in the first term alone, while kicking two goals and also providing another for Jason Castagna in the goal square. He manhandled his direct opponent Liam Jones, providing the Tigers with the perfect outlet to build a 31-point quarter-time lead. Of course, he was helped with some scintillating ball use through the corridor by Richmond's classy batch of midfielders. He finished with three goals from five marks and again looks like an early Coleman Medal contender.
Blues have their own 'Jumping Jack'
In the absence of more traditional marking targets, Jack Martin was the standout in the Carlton attacking group. His third quarter displayed all of the qualities he has promised throughout his 97-game Gold Coast career. He was a threat in the air, lively on ground level and showcased his trademark physicality out of possession. He kicked four goals from five disposals for the quarter alone, ensuring the Blues kept the scoreboard somewhat respectable. His recruitment via the pre-season draft already looks worth the wait.
The goal that broke the Blues' back
Daniel Rioli running into an open goal midway through the second quarter might have otherwise appeared rather innocuous. But it was the goal that killed Carlton. Trailing by 23 points at the time, the Blues had enjoyed 85 percent of the ball in their forward half throughout the first 12 minutes of the second quarter. Yet they'd kicked just one goal. Rioli then countered, put one through against the run of play and virtually finished the match as a contest. Just a few minutes later, Richmond's half-time lead was 46 points.
From a full house, to this…
Very few players make their debut in front of 100,014 people. Even fewer play their second game in front of 0 people. Marlion Pickett has achieved that rare feat, though. It was always going to be hard for Pickett to replicate his stunning maiden appearance, which came in last year's Grand Final, but he was exciting in glimpses on Thursday night. He didn't win much of the footy, finishing with just 14 disposals for the match, but his balance in possession and his ability to ease away from stoppages with speed and class was a highlight.
Weitering finally finds a way of limiting Lynch
Tom Lynch has a long history of putting Carlton to the sword. In nine prior games against the Blues, Lynch had kicked 33 goals. But on Thursday night, Jacob Weitering finally found a way of limiting his impact. His positioning out of possession was near-perfect, while he wasn't dragged into the type of physical battles against his 199cm opponent as he has been in the past. Lynch was goalless and didn't take a mark from just nine disposals, with Weitering able to have an effective impact going the other way as well.
Richmond: The Tigers have had a blessed run on the injury front, but there is one concern stemming from Thursday night with defender Nick Vlastuin forced from the contest after failing a concussion test. Vlastuin copped a whack to the head midway through the third quarter and wasn't seen again.
Carlton: The Blues were dealt an early blow midway through the first quarter, with Matthew Kreuzer landing awkwardly on his foot after a ruck contest. He wasn't seen for the remainder of the match, with Levi Casboult forced into the ruck for the rest of the game. Running defender Nic Newman appeared to hurt a taped elbow during the second quarter, but returned. Mitch McGovern also went down to the rooms after a marking contest, but finished the match.
Richmond is due to return to the MCG to face Collingwood next Thursday night, while Carlton is scheduled to head across town to Marvel Stadium to meet the Western Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon.
RICHMOND 7.2 11.3 14.5 16.9 (105)
CARLTON 2.1 3.5 8.7 12.9 (81)
Richmond: Riewoldt 3, Castagna 3, Bolton 3, Rioli 3, Edwards, Martin, Prestia, Lambert
Carlton: Martin 4, Cuningham 2, Casboult 2, Silvagni 2, McGovern, Newnes
Richmond: Prestia, Martin, Riewoldt, Cotchin, Edwards, Lambert
Carlton: Martin, Cripps, Weitering, Docherty, Murphy
Richmond: Vlastuin (concussion)
Carlton: Kreuzer (foot)
Umpires: Meredith, O'Gorman, Williamson