Start crucial to Friday night’s blockbuster clash

Two of the AFL’s biggest and best teams will fight it out on Friday night for the heavyweight title, in what’s shaping as a grand final preview for the ages. The best attack against the best defence, a familiar trend for Swans fans over the last 5 years.

In the left corner, wearing red and white trunks, weighing in at 2 premierships, 5 grand finals and countless finals since 2005, the Sydney Swans, and in the right corner, the challenger wearing yellow, red and black trunks, weighing in at 3 preliminary finals since 2005, the Adelaide Crows.

The fighters size each other up, move out to their corners and get ready to go to war, with the start of the fight crucial in determining the victor. They move smoothly, but cautiously toward one other, jabbing and weaving, waiting to land the crucial blow.

Such is the importance of the first half for the Swans, that since the 2013 season, when Adelaide and Port Adelaide were still battling it out with Football South Australia over their licenses and Football Park deal, they lead by an average of 33 points at the main break when they win.

The closest the Crows have come to matching the Swans at half-time, was round 3 2014, when they trailed by 19 at half-time, but still went on to lose by 63 points.

Last years semi final is another example of the Swans killing the Crows with a fast start, smashing them in the first quarter to lead 45-20, and by half-time it was all over, up by 37.

The Crows came back in the second half, especially in the third quarter to trim the margin back to four goals, but it was too little too late, as the Swans once again surged in the last quarter and won convincingly.

The Swans certainly struggled to score fluently in the first half of the games, in the early-to-middle part of the season. More recently though, the Swans fast starts look to be back, belting the Cats and Dockers off the park in the opening stanza, leaving them little-to-no chance of a result, especially last weekend against Fremantle.

Against the Cats, it was hardly a case of their opponents failing to turn up, dominating the ball in the opening quarter, especially the first 5 minutes. The Swans on the other hand, took efficiency to an entirely new level, scoring 32 points with little over 20 possessions, blowing away the match in the space of 10 minutes.

Such was the surge that it obliterated the Cats confidence, with their opening two goals of the match coming from hack kicks that fortuitously fell in the hands of their forwards. Fremantle on the other hand had their opportunities, but the pressure of the Swans midfield and defence forced their entries wide and shallow, and ultimately into congestion.

Despite their horror start to the season, the Swans have won 12 of 20 first quarters, more ominously, 4 of their past 5. Over the course of the season, they average 22 points in the first quarter, but the last two games they’ve averaged 48.5.

The Crows haven’t been without their own chances in that same period, winning just 9 of 20 first quarters, going scoreless once, scoring 7 or more goals on 3 occasions. Their most recent 5 games include 4 wins and a draw, averaging 27.4 in the first quarter, and 53 for the first half.

But the Crows do have issues in the first quarters of their matches. They've kicked 2 or less goals on 7 occasions, and in the last 5 matches, scored 15 or less on two occasions, while the Swans have averaged 33 points in the first quarters.

Both sides have certainly put their scoring shoes on, with the Swans averaging 40 more points than their opponent in the last 5 matches, and the Crows 38, but more impressively, since round 7, the Swans have scored just 19 less points, 1420 to 1401, and conceded 140 less, 904 to 1054.

This really is a battle of the heavyweights, with the odds and betting in favour of the Crows, despite the Swans being the form team of the competition, with an average of 155 since round 7, compared to Adelaide’s 135, winning 12 matches compared to 9.

Sydney hold no fear at the Adelaide Oval, losing just once in four visits. Their only loss was against Adelaide last year, falling short by 10 points in see-sawing thriller, a late Eddie Betts goal out the back clinching the match.

In last years semi-final, the Swans kicked 7 goals in the opening 25 minutes, effectively killing the contest, but beyond that a trend emerges starting in 2013. In the four games that Sydney have won, they’ve averaged a whopping 37 points in the first quarter.

Regardless how strong the Crows are, they’re going to find it incredibly difficult to come back into the match if they’re trailing by 5 goals at the first change again.

Adelaide haven’t lost a game when they’ve scored 100 or more points this season, but they’ve failed to stop the Swans scoring less than 100 points in their last 5 encounters, averaging almost 120 points per game, while the Crows in the same period average just 76 points.

Success for the Crows rests on the shoulders of captain Taylor Walker and midfield maestro Rory Sloane, who’re both under injury clouds. Should they fail to play, the odds firmly swing in favour of the Swans, and another belting could be on the cards.

The Swans, who've been on fire recently despite missing their captain and midfield bull, are set to regain Kennedy at the expense of Nic Newman, who's doubtful after hyper-extending his knee.

This is the heavyweight showdown we've waited for all season, the best attacking team against the best defensive team, both overflowing with talent, no doubt ready to throw down another classic.

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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

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