Carlton has resisted a Jeremy Cameron-inspired Geelong fightback to end a horror run in tight contests with an eight-point victory, leaving the AFL premiers winless after two rounds.
Charlie Curnow kicked five goals as the Blues surged clear during the third quarter on Thursday before hanging on for a nervy 13.12 (90) to 12.10 (82) triumph at the MCG.
The Cats trailed by 28 points late in the third term but cut it back to a single-figure margin with plenty of time left as Cameron booted three final-quarter majors.
Cameron finished with 6.1 from 25 disposals and took eight marks in a superb performance, but couldn’t drag Geelong over the line.
Carlton’s first win of 2023 came after it had coughed up leads by conceding late goals in each of their previous three matches, including a pair of heartbreaking defeats that cost them a finals berth last year.
“It wasn’t the monkey on our back, that’s for sure. We never looked at it that way whatsoever,” Blues coach Michael Voss said.
“But it had to be that way, didn’t it? It just had to be that way.
“We had to win really tough in the end and we got the correction we were after.
“You’d like to be able to put the foot down but I don’t think we can be too fixated with how the finish was.
“We’re pleased that we were able to absorb and in a pretty critical moment we were able to do the right things at the right time.”
Key forward Curnow caused the Cats headaches for most of the night, kicking goals in each of the first three quarters.
At the other end, Cameron fired but was one of several Geelong players in the wars.
The spearhead had a nasty gash above his right eye patched up and was hit in the ribs in a final-quarter contest, while teammate Sam De Koning was left sore from multiple collisions.
Rhys Stanley also took a blow to the ribs in a ruck duel, and was substituted out at the final change.
The Cats were left licking their wounds, nursing a 0-2 record for the first time since 2015.
“We’ve come into this year with a view that we are going to be different and there are going to be teething problems with a few things,” coach Chris Scott said.
“We’ve lost a couple of close games but there’s still a lot to like, so there’s a quiet confidence about us.”
The Blues’ midfield were already missing Sam Walsh (back) and George Hewett (hand) before Patrick Cripps had his influence limited by Mark Blicavs in the second term.
But Cripps (27 disposals), Matthew Kennedy, Ed Curnow and Blake Acres (all 26) stood up, with dashing defender Adam Saad (29) also influential.
Small forwards Matthew Owies (three goals), Jesse Motlop and Zac Fisher (one each) all complemented Curnow.
Owies held his nerve to kick the Blues’ final goal of the night from a set shot, holding off Geelong’s surge.
Cameron Guthrie (25 disposals), Isaac Smith (23), Max Holmes (23) and Patrick Dangerfield (22) were among the Cats’ chief ball-winners and Ollie Henry kicked two goals.
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