Carlton has once again been left to rue a poor first quarter, as its spirited fightback against Melbourne fell just one point short with the Demons riding their luck to hold on for a vital win.
- After conceding the first five goals of the game, Carlton draw level late only to lose by one point to Melbourne
- Christian Petracca was best afield for the Demons, finishing with 24 disposals and a crucial goal
- Earlier, Brisbane held off a spirited Fremantle to win by 12 points
After bursting out of the blocks, Melbourne stopped dead in the second half as Carlton belatedly found its feet, the Demons winning 8.6 (54) to 7.11 (53).
Carlton’s comeback was sparked by captain Patrick Cripps in the midfield, Jack Martin in the forward line and Jacob Weitering in defence, but coach David Teague will be left wondering why it took his team so long to get going.
The Demons kicked the first seven goals of the match — including three to Jayden Hunt — in a blistering start but added just one after half-time.
Christian Petracca reaped the benefits of a strong preparation for the competition restart and starred as teen debutants Luke Jackson and Trent Rivers also impressed. Harley Bennell also made a successful return to league footy.
The result left the Blues winless and was compounded by a serious knee injury to defender Nic Newman, who was taken from the field on a stretcher before quarter-time.
Newman, who had surgery on a dislocated elbow during the shutdown period, damaged the patella tendon in his right knee.
Carlton was held scoreless in the first term but hit back with the four consecutive majors either side of half-time.
Veteran goal sneak Eddie Betts made his long-awaited return for the Blues after returning from Adelaide and missing round one through injury, but was kept quiet by Neville Jetta.
Betts had just eight disposals but kicked one goal at a crucial period in the last quarter to cut the margin to nine points before Cripps trimmed it back to one with six minutes left to play.
They drew level when Jack Martin hit the post, but a late behind from Bayley Fritsch — who finished with an inaccurate 1.4 — settled the contest.
Petracca kicked two majors from 24 disposals and gave his side a lift during the third term with a clever mark and goal on the run from outside 50m.
It was a display that will have Demons fans salivating at the prospect of the strong and versatile 24-year-old fulfilling his immense talent in 2020.
A pre-season supplemental selection by the Demons this year, Bennell made an emotional AFL comeback after a long succession of soft-tissue injuries.
The former Fremantle and Gold Coast speedster moved well in his first match since 2017 and showed flashes of class in gathering 14 disposals from half-forward.
Earlier on Saturday, it was the Lions who were forced to withstand a fightback as Brisbane held off Fremantle to win by 12 points at the Gabba.
The heavy favourites threatened to pull away numerous times but the Dockers kept firing back, getting within four points in the final stages before ultimately falling short 12.9 (81) to 10.9 (69) in a near-replication of their tight first-round loss to Essendon.
Charlie Cameron’s early inroads looked to be enough before Michael Walters kicked two final-quarter goals to breathe life into the Dockers’ charge.
Brisbane then missed multiple chances to seal the win before captain Dayne Zorko’s nerve-settler got the Lions, beaten comprehensively by Hawthorn in round one nearly three months ago, on the board.