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Match of the Day: Sydney tsunami something to behold

There’s another one! Lance Franklin celebrates a goal as Sydney’s power-packed second term blows Essendon away. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Match of the Day: Sydney tsunami something to behold

Rohan Connolly    

Replays, more than numbers, will give a far better idea of just how absolute was Sydney’s domination of Essendon in Saturday’s SCG elimination final.

But numbers help provide historical context. And this one provides a good idea of the scale of the Swans’ slaughter of the Bombers, one which not only ended in a 65-point smashing, but in which the result was a foregone conclusion by midway through the second quarter.

This was the 634th final played in 121 seasons of VFL and AFL football. But Sydney’s second quarter 10.3 was the highest-scoring second term in any of them. Seven of them came in under 17 minutes. And seldom in memory has a final gone from competitive to an absolute rout in so short a period.

Sydney, in short, was awesome, Essendon completely overwhelmed. It did take the Swans 15 minutes or so to settle into the game, but once they did, they were unstoppable.

They had the harder bodies, the surer disposal, the superior marking strength, the better work ethic, and in the end, a scoreboard which provided a deserved reward for all those efforts. Not to mention one which will have not only Geelong next week, but any prospective preliminary or grand final opponent anxious indeed.

Essendon couldn’t have started any better. After a series of scrimmages from which there seemed no escape, suddenly Dyson Heppell was put into space, his long ball to the goal face met with a soaring mark by Joe Daniher.

Indeed, Essendon had the better of the first 15 minutes, James Stewart and David Zaharakis both missing gettable chances to give the Bombers a reasonable break.

Failure to convert chances is always costly. But as it transpired, even had it done so, Essendon probably would only have delayed the inevitable.

Gradually, the Swans began to get on top in the clearances and contested ball stakes, Josh Kennedy and Luke Parker their usual brutish selves at the stoppages. The flow of scoring opportunities started to become a flood. And Sydney capitalised on them.

After Dean Towers had levelled things up, Callum Sinclair and Kieren Jack gave the Swans a handy 11-point lead at quarter-time. And once the second quarter began, it was batten down the hatches.

Seldom has finals football in the modern era seen as dominant a 15 minutes or so as the tsunami that was Sydney in the opening to the second term.

Lance Franklin had been hobbled by a cork early in the piece. He couldn’t have answered any questions about his likely effectiveness more emphatically than in the first five minutes.

Goal one came from a mark and towering punt from 55 metres. Goal two followed some terrific Swans pressure, sloppy Essendon handling and a resultant snap. Goal three saw him beat opponent Patrick Ambrose all ends up for body positioning and calmly convert.

By now the gap was 29 points and Essendon in all sorts. But, really, that was just a taster. Sydney was not only winning the clinches, but outmarking the Bombers all over the ground. Patricularly near goal, where Sinclair now booted his second.

More pressure and a Conor McKenna fumble saw Isaac Heeney pounce. Jake Lloyd dobbed a follow-up. And when Kennedy, turning on another spectacular finals performance, swooped on a boundary throw-in and snapped truly, Sydney had slammed on seven goals straight for the term in just 16-and-a-half minutes.

That made it 10 unanswered goals since Daniher’s opener. That made it a 55-point margin. And that, clearly, made it game over.

Essendon was dumfounded, retreating into its collective shell at a rapid rate of knots. Even when the Bombers could get their hands to the ball, they turned it over, fumbled or kicked out-on-the-full, no fewer than four times in the term, even the composure of the likes of Heppell and a very out-of-sorts Michael Hurley completely rattled.

Youngster Josh Begley interrupted the picnic with Essendon’s belated second goal, David Myers scrounged one from a clearance, but even then the Swans hard hardly taken the foot off the pedal, kicking another three themselves, Franklin’s fourth among them, Kennedy taking a gutsy mark and getting on the board as well.

The damage was total. Sydney had 17 inside 50 entries for the term to Essendon’s five. Yes, just five. The Swans by the long break had 27 inside 50s for a return of 13.5, a scoring rate of 66.6 per cent.

It was a 61-point gap by the time the half-time siren rang. And if finals football had a mercy rule there would have been few occasions more apt for its implementation than this one.

Essendon was shot, only some respect to play for. All Sydney could gain was an unfortunately-timed injury ahead of its semi-final appearance against Geelong in six days, the countdown already effectively on.

Yet the Swans continued to push hard. And the start to the third term duplicated the start to the third. Essendon attacked, Daniher marked, and had a goal on the board in under a minute. Again the Dons wasted some chances for a couple. And again, Sydney made theirs count.

Gary Rohan, a bigger influence on this game than his possession tally would indicate, cashed in with a couple of goals. Sinclair posted a third. And still the margin grew, out to 75 points before another Daniher goal just before the bell.

And still the Swans kept going, Franklin now put on ice but the rest of the relentless Sydney runners still doing their stuff. The pace had well and truly come off during the last term, but two Essendon goals were both answered, the final siren in the end a relief for both teams.

The Bombers bid farewell to a favourite son in Jobe Watson and to an adopted one in James Kelly, that moment still meaningful despite the carnage which had just taken place.

And Sydney was suitably respectful. Winning another final, albeit this convincingly, is hardly a novelty after 19 finals appearances in 22 years. It’s finals business as usual once again. And boy, do the Swans do it well.

SYDNEY 3.2 13.5 17.5 19.7 (121)
ESSENDON 1.3 3.4 5.8 8.8 (56)

Goals – SYDNEY: Franklin 4, Sinclair 3, Towers 3, Kennedy 2, Heeney 2, Rohan 2, Papley, Lloyd, Jack. ESSENDON: Daniher 3, Begley 2, Heppell, Myers, Fantasia.
Best – SYDNEY: Kennedy, Parker, Sinclair, Towers, Grundy, Lloyd, Franklin. ESSENDON: Daniher, Gleeson, Parish, Zaharakis, McGrath.

Umpires: Hosking, Chamberlain, Meredith

Crowd: 46,323 at the SCG

  1. It was the way the Swans players just barged through or shook off the Bombers’ tackles that was most disappointing.

  2. A great win indeed for the Swans and I’m not worried about any of their potential opponents.

    But I worry terrible about that “off day” or key injury during a game.

    Last year’s grand final is an important reminder that once finals kick in, you can’t have any off days.

    It doesn’t matter how ominous the Swans are today, it can all go wrong so easily.

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