The Swans out-lasted the Bulldogs on Saturday night in the Swans’ first heart-stopping win of the season.
Despite a poor first half performance, Lance Franklin was the difference on the night, as he moved three goals clear of Peter McKenna into ninth on the AFL’s all-time goal kicking list.
The Swans superstar was held goalless in the opening half for the second time in as many weeks but hit the scoreboard big time in the second half when the game was on the line.
Beveridge’s pre-game prediction that first-year defender Aaron Naughton would take Franklin never eventuated, with the job going to captain Easton Wood.
Easton Wood wore him like a glove for most of the first-half, but Franklin – despite a knock to his shoulder – broke the shackles early in the third quarter, booting two of the Swans first three goals.
Six unanswered goals in the second and third quarters by the Swans turned a 22-point deficit into a 13-point lead, enough to give them breathing space for the rest of the match.
The thrilling 7-point win over the Western Bulldogs moved the Swans to 3-1 for the season and made it 13 wins from 15 attempts at Etihad Stadium since 2011.
There was plenty of feeling in the game early on before the first bounce. Swans midfielder Dan Hannebery and Bulldogs defender Jason Johannisen started a melee before the first bounce, with virtually every player on the field involved.
Tom Papley had the first goal of the match, a snap on his right foot from 45m out just two minutes into the game, but it was the Bulldogs that started the better team.
The lead changed hands early in the game as both teams duked it out, the Bulldogs transitioning through uncontested possession, while the Swans looked to run the ball through the middle.
Turnovers cost the Swans early on and the Bulldogs capitalized, kicking three of their first five goals from turnovers in the Swans forward half.
Dunkley, Dickson and Dalhaus combined well early on and gave the Swans plenty of headaches, with Dickson kicking a goal of the year contender from the boundary line.
Despite the Dogs’ early dominance, the Swans hung tough and stayed within touching distance at the first change, but seemingly forgot to turn up at the start of the second quarter.
Bontompelli lead the Dogs brilliantly early on and they punished the napping Swans, kicking two quick goals, turning a 10-point lead into 22 points, leaving the game resting on a knifes edge.
Turnovers was the bane of the Swans through the first 40 minutes of the match, but it was the Bulldogs that started making mistakes that let the Swans back into the game.
Clutch goals to Parker and Heeney reduced the margin at half-time to just 10 points and gave the Swans a sniff.
The Swans started off the third quarter with a bang, kicking four goals in the first 12 minutes to take the lead. They punished the Bulldogs turnovers, kicking 4.3.27 since the Bulldogs last goal.
Two quick goals from the Dogs brought them back again and set the scene for a thrilling last quarter, full of mistakes and moments of individual brilliance.
Josh Dunkley – son of ex-Swans defender Andrew Dunkley – was good for the Bulldogs but made a calamitous mistake with just minutes left in the match, when he dropped a soda in the goal square and made a meal of it.
Heeney was immense for the Swans in the last quarter and importantly, kept the ball in play and moving for Florent to kick the winner.
Longmire praised the Bulldogs performance after the match, admitting that the Swans were caught up in a turnover game early on.
"I thought the Doggies played pretty well and I didn't think we were as good as what we should have been," Longmire told reporters.
"We probably just got caught up in the turnover game early in the game and got beaten at that, which we're normally pretty strong at.
"Fortunately, at half-time we were able to regroup … we needed to get the momentum back our way and do it pretty quickly and sometimes you've just got to find a way to win.
"And to our players' credit, they found a way to win, even though the stats, almost all of them, were well in the Bulldogs' favour."
The Swans will come off a 6-day break and face an injury ravaged Adelaide outfit, missing both Crouch brothers and forward Eddie Betts, while captain Tex Walker and midfield maestro Rory Sloane are both under injury clouds.
SYDNEY 4.0 6.3 10.4 13.8 (86)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 5.3 7.7 9.10 11.13 (79)
Lance Franklin suffered a knock to the shoulder in the second quarter but played out the match unhindered.
Franklin 3, Parker 3, Papley 2, Heeney 2, Cunningham, Towers, Florent
Heeney, Sinclair, Parker, Franklin, McVeigh, Papley, Rampe
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