20-year-old Swans forward Ben Ronke inspired Sydney to a stirring comeback victory against the Hawks on Friday night at the MCG, booting a game-high seven goals in his side’s 8-point victory.
Setting a new AFL record for goals kicked (7) and tackles laid (10) in a single game, Ben Ronke set the platform for the Swans win with four first-quarter goals.
On a bitterly cold and windy night, that followed a day of almost constant rain, the scene was not set for a forward to play the match-winner, especially with Swans superstar forward Lance Franklin sidelined with a bruised heel.
With conditions clearing, the wind dropping and rain subsiding, Ronke and Gunston soon put an end to that thinking.
Ronke had four goals in the first-quarter and the Swans’ first five and was his side’s only goal kicker until the 21-minute mark of the second quarter when Hayward kicked his first.
At the other end, Jack Gunston was playing a lone hand for the Hawks – had it not been for several wayward misses late in the game and Ronke’s 7-goal haul, the result may well have been different.
He was outstanding in attack for the Hawks, booting 5.3, including their only fourth-quarter goal that put them seven points ahead at the 12-minute mark.
Well held in the third quarter as the Hawks gained a foothold in the match, Ronke exploded to life in the last quarter, his seventh goal sealing the win for the Swans.
The Hawks had their chances, leading by more than a goal with just over three minutes left. Gunston pushed his shot on the run wide and left the door ajar for the Swans to storm home.
The Swans kicked five last quarter goals to one, turned an 11-point three-quarter time deficit into a glorious 12.7 (79) to 10.11 (71) win.
The Swans victory looked to be soured late in the match, when Luke Parker caught Jarman Impey high when both players were competing for the ball.
In Luke Parker’s favour, he was competing for the ball, while Jarman Impey has his head down, connecting with Luke Parker’s hip.
Sydney’s win draws them level with Hawthorn on five wins and three losses and continues their unbeaten record on the road this year, having lost just two away games since Round 7 last season.
While Ronke was undoubtedly the star of the match, Luke Parker was crucial for the Swans with 28 disposals and 2 goals, while Jake Lloyd collected 36 disposals, 2 tackles and 6 rebound 50s in his 100th game for the Swans.
Hawks ball magnet and the leading AFL clearance player, Tom Mitchell, was restricted by Swans stopper George Hewett, collecting 20 disposals and 6 clearances, while Luke Parker was best for the Swans with 7, followed by Florent with 5.
James Sicily continued his red-hot form with another 26 disposals and 9 marks, providing plenty of thrust and run off their half-back line, while Ben McEvoy was one of the Hawks’ best, with 36 hit-outs and 18 disposals.
The Swans found the Hawks’ defensive unit of James Sicily, Ricky Henderson (24 disposals), Liam Shiels (22) and Shaun Burgoyne (26 possessions and 9 tackles) a significant stumbling block in the middle quarters, as they helped to cover the quiet nights of Tom Mitchell, Isaac Smith (16 disposals, 7 marks) and Jaeger O’Meara (13 disposals, 8 tackles), but could do little as the Swans rolled over the top of them in the last quarter.
The warning signs were flashing for the Swans early in the first quarter, with the ball spending most of the quarter in the Hawks’ front half.
When they threatened to take off and leave the Swans behind, Ronke hit back for the Swans, kicking his first just 19 seconds after Gunston kicked the first for the Hawks.
Bruest kicked the Hawks second goal of the match, capitalizing on their forward pressure dominance with 6 of the first 7 inside 50s, but not to be outdone by the Hawks, Ronke unbelievably kicked his second of the match just 14 seconds after play restarted.
When Ronke kicked his fifth goal early in the second quarter, he was already outscoring Hawthorn – 5.0 to 4.3 – while there was a sense of anti-climax as Hayward booting three goals of his own, kicked the Swans sixth of the match, to become their first multiple goal kicker 21 minutes into the second quarter.
The first quarter was played in a fast, free-flowing and free scoring affair, with both sides kicking four goals each – Ronke with all four for the Swans, while Gunston kicked three for the Hawks.
The Swans hit the front early in the second when Ronke kicked his fifth, and lead until early in the third quarter when Jarrad Roughead kicked his first of the match.
Morrison kicked the Hawks second of the quarter, extending their lead to five points, while a reply from Luke Parker put the Swans briefly ahead again.
Despite leading by a point for the majority of the third-quarter, two late goals to Hawks small forward Luke Bruest put the Hawks 11-points ahead at the last change.
Hayward kicked the Swans first of the last quarter inside the first minute, while Ronke kicked his sixth at the 5-minute mark, leveling the scores.
Gunston threatened to lead the Hawks to victory, kicking his fifth of the night, while O’Meara had a chance to extend their lead, but missed.
Hayward kicked his third shortly after Parker collected Impey high on the wing, followed by Luke Parker’s set shot conversion a minute later, putting the Swans ahead with just over 3 minutes left.
Gunston missed a running shot in the pocket just 20 seconds later, leaving the stage set for Ronke to kick his seventh and the winner for the Swans.
Tom McCartin in his first match for the Swans, provided a forward target all night, while midfielder Dan Robinson, playing his second match of the season, picked up 20 disposals – 13 of them contested, from 69 percent game time.
Sydney successfully restricted the Hawks prime ball movers, with Harry Cunningham (27 disposals) holding Isaac Smith, George Hewett (22 disposals) held prolific ball winner Tom Mitchell to 20 disposals, while Isaac Heeney (26 disposals) and Zak Jones were influential for the Swans.
Swans’ coach John Longmire was pleased with his sides’ storming fourth-quarter finish but was mindful that the result may well have been different.
“We kicked 5.0 and they kicked 1.5 (in the last quarter), so we were aware of that,” Longmire said.
“They probably were a little bit pressured from where [their shots] were from, which maybe contributed to that, but we thought our boys had a real crack most of the game, to be honest.
“We turned the ball over a bit too much at times – a bit in that third quarter – but our persistence was fantastic.”
The Swans return to the SCG for the fifth time this season and will look to turn around their home-ground form when they host the Fremantle Dockers on Saturday night.
SYDNEY 4.1 6.4 7.7 12.7 (79)
HAWTHORN 4.3 5.4 9.6 10.11 (71)
Ronke 7, Hayward 3, Parker 2
Ronke, Lloyd, Parker, Heeney, Sinclair, Rampe, Hayward, Hewett
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