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Brook Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA from Australia

In the highly anticipated Round 1 match-up between self-proclaimed Top Four team Carlton and up and coming Richmond, it was the Blues who had all the answers as they steamed to a 44 point win in front of a massive crowd at the MCG. Carlton was just too classy for a determined Richmond outfit with young ruckman Matthew Kreuzer dominating the clearances to give his midfielders first use of the footy. While Richmond’s new recruit Ivan Maric battled hard all night, he was simply not able to compete with the athleticism of Kreuzer around the ground.

There was a huge build up to the game with Tiger great Matthew Richardson leading a procession of fans to the MCG from Tiger headquarters at Punt Road. Carlton's favorite son Anthony Koutoufides did the same for the Blues' faithful as thousands of fans descended on the home of Australian Rules Football in anticipation of a great contest.

As the siren sounded to commence proceedings, things looked good for Richmond early. Maric, who is becoming almost as well known for his "mullet" hairstyle as for his ruck work, got first hands on the footy and palmed it down to young gun Dustin Martin. Martin’s kick sailed to center half forward where Brad Miller brought down a screaming mark for the first shot on goal. Unfortunately Miller’s kick missed but a short time later, a Ty Vickery free kick saw the Tigers post the first goal of the match. Trent Cotchin was dominant in the middle and at around the eight minute mark, he found Shaun Grigg for Richmond’s second goal and a 13 point lead. Carlton bounced back with the next two goals from goal sneak Eddie Betts (wearing his trademark "several sizes too big" shorts again this season) and Dennis Armfield before the Tigers missed a couple of chances to extend their slender lead. When Jarrad Waite goaled for the Blues, they had the lead for the first time at the 18 minute mark. Some slick work by the hard-working Cotchin to find Maric then Robbie Nahas in space put the Tigers back in front, and at quarter time in an even contest the Tigers led by two points.

As the second term opened, Carlton coach Brett Ratten moved tagger Andrew Carrazzo straight onto the rampant Cotchin who had racked up an impressive 11 possessions in the first quarter. After a series of misses, Vickery finally put one through for Richmond, only to have the goal disallowed for an off-the-ball infringement, a decision which drew the ire of Tigers' supporters when the video replay showed it was very soft. Jack Riewoldt then goaled for the Tigers before Eddie Betts fed Chris Yarran for a quick reply from the Blues. When Betts bobbed up for another goal, the Blues regained the lead at the 14 minute mark of the second quarter. A Kade Simpson goal followed and suddenly the Blues looked in control. Martin banged a long goal through for the Tigers before Carlton answered with an Armfield goal and a sweet snap from Jeffrey Garlett late in the quarter. There were danger signs for Richmond as Carlton took a handy 19 point lead into half time. Kreuzer was dominating the ruck duels giving Murphy, Judd and Simpson first use of the ball, while the Tiger forward setup was struggling to function. Vickery in particular was having trouble marking the football in an uncharacteristic display for a player with usually strong hands.

When the third quarter began, the Tigers were desperate to draw first blood. However a Garlett to Hampson clearance put the Blues further ahead. As the Tigers worked feverishly to stop the momentum, it was Brett Thornton who ran into an open goal to score for the Blues and stretch the lead to 31 points. While Tiger midfield star Martin got one back for the Black and Gold, the joy of Tiger fans was short lived as the dominant big man on the field, Kreuzer, took a strong mark and converted another major score for Carlton. Just when it looked like Carlton was about to run away with the game, some good work from Shane Edwards resulted in a Grigg goal for Richmond. Cotchin managed to break the Carrazzo tag and had a purple patch where he managed consecutive goals within two minutes. When a classic solo effort by Richmond forward Jack Riewoldt resulted in another Tiger goal at the 25 minute mark of the quarter, the Tigers had clawed their way back to just a ten point deficit and the game was once again back on as a contest. A couple of misses from the Blues saw them go into the three quarter time break with a 12 point lead.

While Carlton looked the more composed of the two teams, the Tigers refused to give in, and another Riewoldt goal early in the final quarter had the margin back to seven points. Martin had a chance to increase the pressure on Carlton but his shot on goal sailed wide to reduce the margin to six points. Kane Lucas came onto the ground as the substitute for Carlton and immediately kicked a goal to extend the Carlton lead. Yarran showed a touch of magic when he danced down the boundary line, evaded two tacklers and then launched a perfect snap from 40 meters out for a magnificent goal. Replays would suggest he was lucky as the ball looked comfortably out of bounds as he evaded one Tiger tackle but it will remain a contender for Goal of the Year. From here on, it was all Blues as the Tiger challenge evaporated completely. A goal to Marc Murphy, who played a sensational second half, was followed closely by goals to Hampson and Lucas to extend the Carlton lead to an unassailable 39 points. Riewoldt goaled for Richmond before Carlton replied with another from Hampson and a late goal from Mitch Robinson stretched the winning margin to a flattering 44 points.

Tiger fans will be upset by the margin but there is no doubt that Carlton deserved the win. The Blues had 18 more entries inside their 50 meter arc than the Tigers and the class of Kreuzer, Murphy and Carazzo was simply too much for the Richmond boys to handle. The ease with which Carlton scored some of their goals will be a big concern for Richmond coach Damien Hardwick as the Tiger defense no doubt remains the Achilles heel of the team. Brett Ratten on the other hand, will be satisfied with a win in which Chris Judd did not dominate, with the added bonus of a very strong performance from athletic ruckman Matthew Kreuzer.

Next week Carlton meets surprise first round victors the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba, while things won’t get any easier for the Tigers as they face up against Collingwood at the MCG.

Carlton:  3.2 8.7 11.13 18.17 (125)
Richmond: 3.4 5.6 10.7  12.9   (81)

Best players
Carlton:  Kreuzer, Murphy, Judd, Carrazzo, Simpson, Henderson, Armfield
Richmond: Cotchin, Foley, Riewoldt, Rance, Deledio, Grigg

Article last changed on Friday, April 06, 2012 - 3:09 AM EDT

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