AFL Blues survive Tigers

Carlton impresses in real AFL opener.

Robert Whiteby Robert White

After last weekend’s one-sided affair kicked off the 2012 AFL season in slightly disappointing fashion, fans in Melbourne were treated to a brilliant Thursday night match that saw Richmond almost complete a brilliant comeback against the Carlton Blues.

Jarrad Waite began his 2012 campaign by being reported in the game’s first 90 seconds for a reckless head on collision and could face a couple of weeks on the sidelines.

Tyrone Vickery kicked an early goal for the Tigers before Eddie Betts responded for the Blues with one of his two first half goals.

Jack Riewoldt almost answered in style but his running effort didn’t dribble through with enough accuracy.

Kade Simpson was fantastic in the first half with 14 disposals and some beautiful kicking. He delivered a perfect ball inside, setting up an open goal for Dennis Armfield to reduce Richmond’s early lead. Not long after, Waite marked inside 50 and converted putting Carlton in front.

Richmond regained the lead when ruck recruit Ivan Maric gave Robin Nahas an easy slot through, a lead they kept as the first quarter ended.

Carlton opened the second quarter looking dangerous but missed more than a couple of scoring opportunities. Bret Thorton squandered two set shots, one from fifty and the other 25 meters out directly in front.

Carlton’s inaccuracy almost hurt them. A brilliant play from Riewoldt, handballing the ball over his head to a running Vickery setting up a beautiful goal was disallowed because Nahas was caught holding a defender illegally behind the ball.

Both sides went 21 minutes without scoring until Riewoldt finally broke the drought, putting Richmond ahead 29-25.

It took Chris Yarren only a minute to respond and Betts added another 10 seconds later when the Blues smashed the ball forward from the ensuing ruck contest.

Carlton continued to improve and finally punished the Tigers for their continual defensive errors. Betts handed Simpson an open goal in the square, Armfield gather a fumbling ball, spilt a couple of defenders to run into another open goal and Jeff Garlett snapped a goal from the boundary line with 35 seconds remaining to put the Blues up big at the half.

Shaun Hampson needed just a minute and kick a goal from 50 to open the third and helped add another a few minutes later when he handballed a pass to a running Thorton as he fell to the ground.

Dustin Martin kicked a beauty from 50 but a stunning pack mark by Matthew Kreuzer gave the big man easy shot on goal which he had no trouble slotting through.

It was after the Kreuzer goal that Richmond decided to make a strong comeback. Shaun Grigg scored after managing just a second inside 50 mark for the Tigers before Cotchin complete his fantastic evening by kicking two quick goals.

Thorton had a chance to stem the bleeding but missed his third set shot of the night. Down the other end Riewoldt shrugged off a Yarren tackle to kick a beautiful goal around his body and brought what was a 32 point deficit down to just 10.

The poor kicking by Carlton in front of goal continued as Garlett and Waite both missed opportunities. Riewoldt kicked his third when an unmarked ball spilled to him behind the pack but Martin missed a shot that would have reduced the lead to just three.

With their best opportunity gone, the Blues capitalized and never looked back. Substitute Kane Lucas bagged a couple, Yarren kicked what will be one of the goals of the year when he evaded a handful of defenders running down the field, created a bit of space for himself and goaled. Murphy and Hampson scored a couple of late goals and Carlton ran away with a 125-81 victory.

Murphy recovered from a slow start to notch 32 disposals while Carrazzo, Judd and Simpson all won a lot of the ball. Cotchin was brilliant for the Tigers with 27 disposals and two goals and Riewoldt kicked four but had three behinds.