Match preview: 2nd Semi Final, Sydney Swans vs Geelong Cats

Good after all from dreary cold and blustery Melbourne. It's finally game day, the tension palpable the excitement barely containable.

It's time for the Sydney Swans to really stamp their premiership credentials, and crank the temperate on the competition up to 11. They've been irresistible since the bye, dropping just one game by six points to their bogey team Hawthorn.

The bruising loss lit a metaphorical fire underneath their pants and they've won their last five games in emphatic fashion, with Adelaide the only close game. The Swans forward line is in ominous form over the last five games, averaging 118.4 for and conceding just 58.6 points per game.

The Swans have another opportunity to extend their recent dominance over a team once considered their nemesis. Geelong's form line certainly isn't as bad as the pundits and journalists insist it is, but it isn't great either. They've won 3 from the last 5 games, but struggled to score even in their wins, scoring 80 and 70 in wins against Richmond and Collingwood, and just 40 in their qualifying final loss.

Scoring against the Swans is another issue altogether, recording scores of 60, 60 and 61 in their last three games against the harbour side team. Two of those games were at their venerable fortress Kardina Park, where the Swans recently became the most successful away team since 2000. The 2016 preliminary final in particular is representative of where the teams are at, with almost the same Geelong team lining up again tonight.

Fast starts have become the modus operandi for the Swans, especially against the Cats with their last two wins coming from 10 goal plus first halves. The need for the Cats to slow the Swans down is paramount, but even last week when the Bombers managed to keep the Swans to three first quarter goals, they rampaged in the second quarter putting 10.3 through the sticks.

History, form and the bookies are well and truly on the Swans side, with the Cats having never beaten Sydney/South Melbourne in a final, let alone ever at the MCG.

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While the MCG holds its own demons for the Swans, their record this year at the ground - let alone in Melbourne - is impressive. They've lost three games in Melbourne this season, to Carlton and Hawthorn at the 'G and the 'Dogs at Docklands. Two of those losses were early in the season, with the Swans recording away wins against North Melbourne, St Kilda, Melbourne and Richmond.

Whichever team wins this final faces the daunting road trip to Adelaide to take on the red-hot minor premiers, the Adelaide Crows. It's as tough a road journey there is this season, but the Swans' record at the ground and their recent win gives them hope.

Recent history

The Swans have won five from the last six matches against the Cats, with two of those wins at Kardinia Park and one at the MCG.

The score differential between the two teams is worrying for the Cats, as the Swans have had no problems choking the Cats' forward line, despite their inside 50 dominance.

The Cats recorded an astounding 71 inside 50s against the Swans in the preliminary final, scoring just 60 points and losing by 37 points. In round 20 this year, they recorded one more inside 50, yet lost by 46 points, once again conceding seven goals in the first quarter.

The Cats have it all to do on Friday night, despite frequently dominating the clearances, uncontested marks, uncontested possessions and inside 50s between the teams. Lacking the elite kicking skills of Hawthorn, the Swans often force the Cats into turn overs during transition and punish them heavily.

The start is once again the most important part of the game with the Swans the second highest scoring team in the first 10 minutes this season.

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Last 5 meetings

R20, 2017, Sydney 16.11 (107) d Geelong 8.13 (61) at Simonds Stadium
PF, 2016, Sydney 15.7 (97) d Geelong 8.12 (60) at the MCG
R16, 2016, Sydney 15.8 (98) d Geelong 9.6 (60) at Simonds Stadium
R19, 2015, Geelong 14.11 (95) d Sydney 9.9 (63) at Simonds Stadium
R7, 2015, Sydney 18.12 (120) d Geelong 11.11 (77) at ANZ Stadium

The Swans have dominated the Cats in recent times, with the Cats upsetting the apple cart just once at home since their crushing 110 point loss in 2014.

Games between the two teams haven't been close since 2013, with the average winning margin at least 6 goals. The Swans however have been scoring freely since the Hawks game while the Cats struggled to wins.

It's a big game for... Lance Franklin

Geelong defender Tom Lonergan has had the better of the battle between the two players, conceding an average of just 1.8 goals per game.

The Swans have dominated Geelong in recent times without Franklin firing, but nearing the top of the finals all time goal kicking chart, a bag from Franklin will go a long way to helping his side progress.

Prediction

The Cats have been put through the fire after their qualifying finals loss. Coach John Longmire put the team on notice when he said that pundits and fans love to jump off teams that lose the first final.

Despite all that, their low score, the hobbling of stars and their growing injury list, it's hard to see where they'll compete hard enough for long enough against the Swans.

After their poor start to the season, the Swans have strangled every team they've played and Geelong will be no different. On the wide spaces of the MCG, Geelong's zonal defence will fail to contain the Swans as they run rampant in another dominant first half display.

Swans by 57, Franklin to kick 5, Kennedy best on ground again with 34 disposals, 22 contested.

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Justin Mitchell

Justin is a passionate AFL and Sydney Swans supporter, and football blogger since 2016. All articles are of his own opinion. You can reach him by twitter and Facebook at @theswansblog

Melbourne, Australia http://theswansblog.com

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