RICHMOND learnt how quickly a game can be grabbed away from it. The Tigers started with more initiative than Essendon, got the ball out of busy situations better and moved it forward with enough time and space to do something more thoughtful.
They did it enough times that with more than 20 minutes gone in the second quarter they were more than three goals clear. But in the space of three minutes they let the Bombers kick three goals and found themselves playing catch-up for most of the second half.
It wasn't until the last few minutes that Ricky Petterd jumped on a loose ball, ran it to just outside the 50-metre line and kicked a nine-point goal that ensured Richmond an eight-point win.
Before then it learnt other things, hanging in just behind the Bombers during the third term and kicking two late goals to keep it in touch.
Then persisting when it scored eight behinds through the last quarter, before Petterd's shot sailed through.
That pleased coach Damien Hardwick. Richmond lost many of the close games it found itself in last year - it went 2-6 in games decided by 12 points or less - and getting better when things get tight is something the Tigers have been working on during the pre-season.
''Obviously it's been well documented last year about how we failed to finish out those close games,'' Hardwick said. ''Tonight we probably didn't help our cause, missing with all those points, but we've worked on a couple of things to help us with the closing out, and it certainly came through for us, which was good.''
The hero was Petterd, whom the Tigers recruited as a rookie last year from Melbourne. ''He's still got a little bit to learn about our system,'' Hardwick said. ''But we certainly think we've picked up a player that can contribute.''
There were others. Draftee Nick Vlastuin has what his coach likes: a no-fuss attitude and a willingness to put his body where the ball is. David Astbury's game on Michael Hurley was further encouragement that he can get back to the promising place he was in when he injured his knee two years ago.
Orren Stephenson held his own, with six early clearances helping enable Richmond's more productive movement out of traffic. Shaun Grigg was busy from start to finish and Tyrone Vickery could've had a huge influence in the last quarter but missed a couple of shots. Essendon's start was nowhere near as sharp and the Bombers' three-goal burst at the end of the second half, with two of their three goals coming from fast centre-square breaks, was their best patch of the game.
It was the only time they were able to really slow the Tigers up.
''I was disappointed we weren't able to keep Richmond to a lesser score. I think we let them score too much and we let them run it out of their half-back line too easily at certain times,'' coach James Hird said.
There were things to like for the Bombers too, though. Jake Carlisle was excellent against Jack Riewoldt, his safe hands and reading of the play a more than handy combination. Nick Kommer was ferocious and Jobe Watson was solid on his return from a minor knee injury, as were Jake Melksham and Ben Howlett in their first appearances of 2013.
The duel between Hurley and Astbury was a good one, with Hurley becoming more involved after half-time before corking a thigh. Michael Hibberd played well off half-back, Stewart Crameri's body work was influential at times and Paddy Ryder scored three goals. ''We had our good patches but, for the whole game, it wasn't what we wanted,'' Hird said.