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Sydney's remarkable run towards the most unlikely of premierships continued unabated on Saturday evening when the Swans put Essendon to the sword, thrashing the Bombers by 65 points at the SCG, unceremoniously ending the Dons season, and the careers of a legend of the club, Jobe Watson, and another veteran an AFL star, James Kelly. The Swans started the match as hot favourites but there was expectation in at least some quarters that Essendon would make a game of it, given they had pushed Sydney to within point at their last meeting at the ground.
But although the Dons did their best to stay in touch in the first quarter of the match, trailing by only 11 points at the first break, the match was blown apart in the second quarter, with Sydney kicking 10 goals to two. Four of those went to Lance Franklin, who put aside the pain that came with a severe corked thigh sustained earlier in the match to set up the big win. The Swans extended their lead to 69 points at the final change before cruising in the final term to ultimately win by 65 points, setting up an MCG showdown with Geelong next Friday night.
The game actually started well for Essendon, with full-forward Joe Daniher taking a towering mark 15 metres from goal and converting putting the Bombers ahead by six points. But the Swans got on top in general play after that and, after a miss from Franklin, Dean Towers earned a free kick after his tackle of Dyson Heppell forced an illegal disposal from the Bombers' captain. Towers kicked truly, and that gave the Swans a one-point lead at the eight-minute mark. It was a lead they would not relinquish.
It was soon after that Franklin sustained his thigh injury. It forced him from the field, but he was to return with devastating effect in the second term. The Bomber had a couple of mid-term scoring chances but James Stewart and David Zaharakis could register only minor scores with them, and a mark and goal to Callum Sinclair gave the home side a six-point lead soon after. Neither side scored for the next seven minutes until Kieran Jack roved a marking contest beautifully to snap a goal, and Sydney took an 11-point lead into quarter time.
Sydney set the scene for the second term in its first minute, with a centre-clearance from skipper Josh Kennedy hitting Franklin on the chest. Despite clearly still struggling with his thigh injury, Franklin nailed a long goal from outside 50, sparking his teammates into producing a scintillating quarter of football. Franklin followed up with his second goal barely 90 seconds later, and by the six-minute mark of the quarter he had three majors after again marking and kicking truly.
From there, Franklin's teammates decided to get in on the act, and over the next 12 minutes, Sinclair, Isaac Heeney, Jake Lloyd and Kennedy all took turns in kicking a goal and the Swans' lead was out to what was virtually a match-winning 55 points. Essendon finally got themselves on the board with a mark and goal to Josh Begley at the 18-minute mark, but the Swans resumed their rampage after that kicking three of the last four goals of the half - including a fourth to 'Buddy' - to make it 10 for the term. Sydney's lead at half time was 61 points and from the Dons' viewpoint, the game was all but shot.
It was always going to be a long way back from there for Essendon, but to the Bombers credit they came out firing in the early stages of the third quarter. Unfortunately for them, after an early goal to Daniher, they missed three shots at goal in a row through Orazio Fantasia, Daniher, and Travis Colyer, and the margin had been reduced by just nine points nine minutes into the term.
As is so often the way, when the Swans finally conjured up a scoring chance, Gary Rohan grasped it with both hands, marking and goaling at the 11-minute mark. After another Essendon miss, this time through Zaharakis, Sinclair kicked his third major and a follow-up goal from Heeney took Sydney's lead out to a game-high 69 points. Rohan took the margin out to 75 with his second before Daniher marked and kicked his - and the Dons' - second goal of the quarter, but the home side was 69 points to the good when the three-quarter time siren sounded.
There's no coming back from a 69-point three-quarter time deficit so all that remained in the final term was to learn what Sydney's winning margin would be and for the Swans themselves to play out the term without anyone getting injured. Under those circumstances, it was hardly surprising that the last quarter was a relatively tame one.
After Dean Towers opened proceedings with a behind for the Swans, a lovely snap from Fantasia at the six-minute cut the margin to 64 points, but Sydney kicked the next two majors via a juggled mark to Tom Papley and then a nice snap from Towers, with Papley involved again, sending a handpass Towers' way. The margin at that stage was 76 points, but Essendon saw out the match with a couple of consolation majors, one each to Heppell and Begley, the Swans' final winning buffer a more than solid 65 points.
While Franklin's second-quarter exploits were enough to see him make the best players list, Josh Kennedy's four-quarter effort, which yielded 29 disposals and two goals, made him clearly the best player on the ground. Luke Parker (27 possessions, seven tackles) was also excellent. For the Bombers, Daniher provided a focal point throughout the match, finishing with 17 touches and three goals, while Heppell (24 possessions, six tackles) and Zaharakis (11 tackles, 21 disposals) flew the flag from start to finish.
The Sydney Swans juggernaut will roll on next Friday night as they face Geelong at the MCG, having comfortably beaten the Cats at their Kardinia Park fortress only five weeks ago. Recent form suggests a Sydney win, but Geelong will be hellbent on improving a finals record that is starting to look quite poor.
For Essendon, while the manner the season ended will be a bitter pill to swallow, the Dons can look back on the season with a sense of achievement. The team were wooden spooners only 12 months earlier, and the reintegration of the suspended 'peptide' players into the side was always going to take some time. John Worsfold's Bombers cam justifiably look forward to next year with confidence.
Sydney: Franklin 4; Towers, Sinclair 3; Kennedy, Rohan, Heeney 2; Papley, Jack, Lloyd
Essendon: Daniher 3; Begley 2; Myers, Fantasia, Heppell
BEST - AFL.COM.AU
Sydney: Kennedy, Sinclair, Parker, Grundy, Lloyd, Franklin, Jones
Essendon: Daniher, Heppell, Zaharakis, McGrath
BEST - THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
Sydney: Kennedy, Franklin, Towers, Parker, Rampe, Sinclair
Essendon: Daniher, Zaharakis, Hurley, Heppell, Parish
Sydney: Lance Franklin (corked thigh), Isaac Heeney (nose)
UMPIRES: Hosking, Chamberlain, Meredith
TELEVISION BROADCAST: Seven Network
COMMENTATORS: Hamish McLachlan, Jason Bennett, Cameron Ling, Jude Bolton
|7||Cunningham, Harry||9||6||10||19||0||0||0||1||0||1||23y 277d||80||41|
|23||Franklin, Lance 'Buddy'||7||3||1||8||4||1||0||1||0||1||30y 222d||270||860|
|39||Grundy, Heath||10||10||12||22||0||0||0||0||0||1||31y 99d||236||23|
|4||Hannebery, Dan||8||8||13||21||0||0||0||6||1||0||26y 197d||192||94|
|5||Heeney, Isaac||9||6||4||13||2||2||0||5||0||0||21y 127d||57||60|
|29||Hewett, George||7||4||12||19||0||0||0||6||0||1||21y 254d||47||27|
|15||Jack, Kieren||14||3||5||19||1||0||0||3||1||0||30y 73d||228||153|
|10||Jones, Zak||19||9||2||21||0||0||0||4||1||3||22y 178d||53||14|
|12||Kennedy, Josh||11||3||18||29||2||0||0||5||2||1||29y 81d||203||131|
|44||Lloyd, Jake||16||14||9||25||1||0||0||0||0||2||23y 354d||91||23|
|3||McVeigh, Jarrad||17||5||4||21||0||0||0||1||2||1||32y 155d||299||198|
|14||Mills, Callum||11||9||5||16||0||0||0||5||0||0||20y 160d||45||1|
|35||Naismith, Sam||4||2||6||10||0||0||33||5||2||1||25y 55d||27||3|
|28||Newman, Nic||11||5||4||15||0||0||0||2||1||1||24y 237d||19||7|
|41||Papley, Tom||8||2||8||16||1||0||0||3||0||2||21y 58d||39||58|
|26||Parker, Luke||15||3||12||27||0||1||0||7||3||4||24y 319d||150||117|
|24||Rampe, Dane||11||6||4||15||0||0||0||2||0||5||27y 99d||114||6|
|20||Reid, Sam||7||6||5||12||0||0||0||2||2||1||25y 256d||119||123|
|16||Rohan, Gary||5||5||2||7||2||0||0||5||1||0||26y 94d||94||89|
|18||Sinclair, Callum||9||9||1||10||3||1||3||3||0||0||27y 351d||63||42|
|40||Smith, Nick||9||7||4||13||0||0||0||2||1||0||29y 89d||190||10|
|22||Towers, Dean||9||2||5||14||3||1||2||5||3||1||27y 128d||48||26|
|29||Ambrose, Patrick||5||4||5||10||0||0||0||1||0||0||26y 8d||60||20|
|12||Baguley, Mark||8||7||6||14||0||0||0||2||0||1||30y 111d||104||3|
|16||Begley, Josh||4||3||4||8||2||0||0||3||1||1||19y 68d||3||5|
|2||Bellchambers, Tom||1||1||2||3||0||0||44||5||0||4||28y 62d||93||62|
|32||Colyer, Travis||14||6||6||20||0||2||0||6||1||0||26y 16d||79||52|
|6||Daniher, Joe||14||6||3||17||3||2||1||1||5||1||23y 189d||93||173|
|13||Fantasia, Orazio||7||5||10||17||1||1||0||5||0||1||21y 360d||47||70|
|8||Gleeson, Martin||16||7||9||25||0||0||0||2||1||1||23y 15d||69||5|
|9||Goddard, Brendon||11||6||14||25||0||0||0||3||1||1||32y 112d||312||157|
|36||Hartley, Michael||6||3||5||11||0||0||0||1||0||2||24y 94d||37||1|
|21||Heppell, Dyson||15||2||9||24||1||0||0||6||3||1||25y 118d||129||45|
|18||Hurley, Michael||16||10||14||30||0||0||0||1||1||0||27y 100d||140||108|
|47||Kelly, James||7||4||10||17||0||0||0||5||1||0||33y 254d||313||90|
|43||McDonald-Tipungwuti, Anthony||5||1||6||11||0||0||0||5||2||1||24y 140d||44||42|
|1||McGrath, Andrew||9||4||13||22||0||0||0||6||3||0||19y 99d||21||1|
|45||McKenna, Conor||12||6||5||17||0||0||0||1||1||0||21y 165d||33||10|
|7||Merrett, Zach||12||2||9||21||0||0||0||6||2||0||21y 341d||81||31|
|23||Myers, David||6||2||6||12||1||0||0||2||0||1||28y 71d||100||29|
|3||Parish, Darcy||7||3||14||21||0||0||0||5||0||2||20y 46d||40||13|
|17||Stewart, James||5||5||3||8||0||1||1||2||1||1||23y 189d||34||40|
|4||Watson, Jobe||7||3||13||20||0||0||0||3||1||0||32y 213d||220||113|
|11||Zaharakis, David||10||4||11||21||0||2||0||11||2||2||27y 200d||170||112|