RICHMOND has unfurled its premiership flag in style in front of a record crowd at the MCG, kicking away from a new-look Carlton to win its fifth consecutive season opener by 26 points on Thursday night.
The Blues threatened to spoil the Tigers' party, but the class and experience of the premiers told in the final term, kicking six of the last eight goals to win 17.19 (121) to 15.5 (95) in front of 90,151 fans.
The match was alive early in the fourth quarter before dominant midfielder Dustin Martin swooped onto a loose ball and kicked a running goal to spark the Tigers' run and end the plucky Blues' fight.
The Brownlow medallist, who was only shaded by young Carlton star Patrick Cripps, finished with 32 possessions (17 contested) and six clearances, picking up where he left off after his decorated 2017.
He asserted himself on the contest when he needed to, with the Tigers also lifting just in time after a scratchy start that saw an attacking Blues' outfit challenge them for three quarters.
WATCH: Dusty doing what Dusty does best
It was the Tigers' seventh consecutive win against Carlton, with the Tiger Army turning out in force to break the previous round one record of 87,119 held by Collingwood and Carlton.
"We've got a bit of work to do. We didn't play our best tonight, but credit where credit's due, I thought Carlton competed really, really hard, which was a good sign for them," coach Damien Hardwick said.
"I thought we were beaten, our onball brigade, in the first three quarters, but we started to get back on top in that last quarter when the game needed to be won."
Captain Trent Cotchin (24 and seven clearances) was excellent for the victors, while defender Alex Rance was impenetrable at times across half-back.
Cripps was the star on Thursday night though, winning 36 possessions (and a personal best 25 contested) and nine clearances, signaling a big season for the young midfielder.
Exciting Carlton forward Charlie Curnow was also electrifying at times, booting five goals after a pre-season that has seen him stamped as one of the game's rising stars.
WATCH: Curnow gives Blues a flying start
The Blues were hit by injury though, with ruckman Matthew Kreuzer spending a long period off the ground with a groin problem and midfield recruit Matt Kennedy troubled by an ankle injury that ended his night in the second quarter.
Coach Brendon Bolton, who acknowledged the Blues' growth over the off-season, did not want to use injuries as an excuse for the loss.
"We were really happy with that start, but our players and coaching staff were really disappointed that we only went in nine points up at the end of the first quarter," the coach said.
"You can use young players as an excuse, but when they go out they are Carlton footballers and they need to learn to adapt. It does take time but never use that as an out."
The Tigers were caught on the hop after watching their 2017 premiership unfurl at the Punt Road end of the MCG, with Carlton kicking the first five goals of the match.
Curnow kicked the opening goal of the new season, while Kennedy and fellow recruit Jarrod Garlett were heavily involved early as the Blues took risks and linked up through the midfield.
Carlton was also the better pressure team early, with the Tigers laying just one tackle in the opening 10 minutes before settling through the leadership of Jack Riewoldt and influence of Martin.
After a high-octane start, the game took on a contested edge in the second quarter and the Blues held their own, entering the main break four points clear but without Kennedy.
Tall forward Levi Casboult had just one possession in the opening half, with the Blues crying out for a marking target as Rance asserted himself in the air across half-back.
The Blues instead directed their attack through Curnow, who booted two of his five goals in the third quarter.
WATCH: The Carlton kid who looks unstoppable
The umpires were red hot on the protected area rule, and Curnow benefited early in the fourth quarter, kicking the Blues' fifth goal from a 50m penalty to give them a two-point lead.
It was the perfect time for Martin to assert himself, and that's what he did, making sure the Tigers didn't start their premiership defence on the back foot.
Richmond: Shai Bolton was briefly troubled by a cramp in the fourth quarter that had initially appeared to be more serious, but the Tigers got through unscathed.
Carlton: The medical team was in overdrive, with Matt Kennedy spraining his left ankle in the first quarter and attempting to play on after a spell on the bench. He was tapped out early in the second term. Matthew Kreuzer "lost power in his groin", but the Blues were hopeful it wasn't serious, despite the big man losing mobility at times.
Richmond travels to Adelaide for the Grand Final rematch to open round two on Thursday night. The Blues host Gold Coast at Etihad Stadium on March 31, giving them a nine-day break.
WATCH: Jack's cracker from the pocket
RICHMOND 4.4 6.11 11.14 17.19 (121)
CARLTON 6.1 8.3 12.4 15.5 (95)
Richmond: Townsend 4, Riewoldt 4, Butler 3, Caddy 3, Castagna 2, Martin
Carlton: C.Curnow 5, Wright 5, Garlett 2, Fisher, Casboult, Petrevski-Seton
Richmond: Martin, Rance, Cotchin, Caddy, Riewoldt, Butler, Astbury
Carlton: Cripps, C.Curnow, Simpson, Murphy, Wright, Marchbank
Carlton: Kennedy (left ankle), Kreuzer (groin)
Umpires: Fisher, Rosebury, Hosking
Official crowd: 90,151 at the MCG