Demons survive late Carlton fightback

Shayne Hope
Christian Petracca (right) was influential as the Demons hung on to pip Carlton by a solitary point

Harley Bennell made a successful return to football as Melbourne survived a late Carlton fightback to register their first triumph of the AFL season with a tense one-point win on Saturday.

Christian Petracca (24 disposals) was the star at Marvel Stadium as teen debutants Trent Rivers and Luke Jackson also impressed.

The Demons kicked the first seven goals in a blistering start - including three to Jayden Hunt - but added just one after half-time and were forced to endure some nervous moments in the dying stages after Carlton ground their way back into the contest.

"It's really tough to win in this industry and as we saw again today it's such a tight competition," Dees coach Simon Goodwin said after the 8.6 (54) to 7.11 (53) win.

"As dynamic as we were early, Carlton were very good late.

"We'll take the victory and there's some great learnings in it for us as a club about how good we can be and then the things we've got to keep working at."

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 were held scoreless in the first term and hit back after half-time but were ultimately left frustrated.

"I'm torn between disappointment and recognising the effort that the boys put in," Blues coach David Teague said.

"We tried hard, but we didn't turn up to start the game again and it's become a pattern.

"We had the run, the guys were fit and they prepared well but at the moment we're giving opposition too much of a start and it's unacceptable.

"We came here to compete for four quarters and we didn't do that, so we let ourselves down."

Fan favourite Eddie Betts made his long-awaited return for the Blues after moving back from Adelaide and missing round one through injury, but was kept quiet by Neville Jetta.

He finished with one goal from eight possessions.

Carlton trailed by 42 points during the second quarter but drew level with a few minutes to play before a late behind from Bayley Fritsch settled the contest.

Petracca kicked two majors from 24 disposals in a display that will have Demons fans salivating at the prospect of the 24-year-old fulfilling his immense talent in 2020.

Bennell (14 disposals) made an emotional comeback after a long succession of soft-tissue injuries and moved well at half-forward in his first AFL match since 2017.

It was the former Fremantle and Gold Coast speedster's first outing for Melbourne after being picked up during the pre-season.