Carlton’s defence hung on grimly and magnificently for much of Thursday night’s season opener, but could not when it mattered most.
With the Blues clinging to a six-point lead and the clock ticking below a minute to go, Richmond’s forward colossus Tom Lynch snatched his sixth mark and nervelessly kicked his third goal to seal a thrilling draw in front of 88,084 fans.
Tom Lynch after scoring a vital goal.Credit:Getty Images / AFL Photos
The clubs went tit-for-tat all night, with Carlton’s 14-point half-time edge the biggest margin between them despite the Tigers dominating territory early then surging in front with a third-quarter goal binge.
But the Blues looked winners after Sam Docherty thumped through a 55-metre-plus set shot early in the final quarter before Charlie Curnow toe-poked through his third major in what could have been the match-winner until Lynch’s heroics.
There were only 17 seconds left when the ball returned to the centre, and Carlton went forward but simply ran out of time.
The Blues’ enormous fan base was once the only reason they had the privilege of retaining this fixture each year, but there is plenty of substance about them these days.
They will carry immense expectations throughout the season and have the players to meet them, in particular captain Patrick Cripps, whose 10 disposals in the final term helped bring Carlton back into the contest.
George Hewett (28, eight clearances) was the Blues’ best and most consistent midfielder, but recycled defender Lewis Young (14 intercept possessions) saved his side repeatedly and comfortably took the honours against Jack Riewoldt.
Mitch McGovern book-ended the match with glaring defensive errors but was otherwise stout, while Jacob Weitering also had good moments but was ultimately responsible for Lynch.
The Tigers will also be one of the storylines to watch this year as they try to fend off father time and regenerate on the run.
Almost a third of Richmond’s round one side was on the wrong side of 30, but supercharged by a pair of ex-Giants recruits in Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper, they are hoping to contend again.
Taranto (match-high 32 disposals), in particular, made a great fist of his first game in yellow and black, while Dan Rioli continued his career resurgence with another stellar performance.
Dustin Martin also showed he has plenty more to give with a crowd-pleasing opening goal when McGovern dropped a mark and a series of laser-like passes.
Good start for ex-Giants
Plenty of column inches were devoted this past summer to Richmond’s decision to trade for former Giants midfielders Jacob Hopper and Tim Taranto on seven-year deals.
Similarities were drawn with Hawthorn’s recruitment of Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O’Meara, especially because both clubs were not long separated from premiership success but with a number of ageing stars.
Only time will tell whether it will be a better move for the Tigers than what it ended up being for the Hawks, but Taranto made a strong first impression, even if he was a bit untidy occasionally.
He can expect much more on-ball time at Richmond than he received at Greater Western Sydney, and made the most of it with a team-high 19 disposals and four clearances to half-time and finished with 32 touches.
Hopper had a more modest night but still did his bit with 18 disposals and six inside 50s.
Twin towers sometimes muted, always ominous
Carlton’s two Coleman medallists – Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay – might not have had their best night on Thursday but still showcased how dangerous they can be.
After a quiet opening half, Curnow bobbed up to kick two goals in as many minutes to arrest a Richmond rally and briefly snatch the lead back in the third quarter.
It was a different story for McKay, whose aerial work was excellent from go-to-whoa, but his kicking was unable to match it, whether in front of goal or driving the Sherrin inside 50.
Curnow then bobbed up again late to toe poke through a third goal that loomed as the match-winner until the final minute.
Richmond 1.4 2.4 7.8 8.10 (58)
Carlton 3.1 4.6 6.9 8.10 (58)
Best: Carlton: Young, Cripps, Hewett, Docherty, Kennedy, McGovern. Richmond: D. Rioli, Lynch, Taranto, Martin, Bolton, Prestia.
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