The Sydney Swans extended their dominant winning streak against the Brisbane Lions on Saturday afternoon, in a hard-fought scrappy 18-point victory at the Gabba.
The 10.7 (67) to 6.13 (49) victory was the Swans’ third straight win, their fifth win on the road this season, and moved them into the top four.
Conditions were wet and slippery throughout the contest, with rain steadily falling in the first half.
The Lions briefly hit the front early in the first quarter, but it was the Swans that controlled the match from start to finish.
George Hewett (28 disposals, 10 clearances) was crucial in the Swans’ win, shutting down Dayne Zorko (21 disposals, 12 tackles) and winning plenty of his own ball, while Mitch Robinson (35 disposals) and Dayne Beams (38 disposals) ran riot.
With Callum Mills set to miss the season with a broken foot, Zak Jones (7 rebound 50s), Jarrad McVeigh (22 disposals), Harry Marsh (6 1-percenters) and Dane Rampe (6 intercept possessions) combined brilliantly in his absence.
It was a thoroughly professional performance from the experienced Swans defence, rarely broken down even when the ball was deep in the Lions’ forward half, early in the last quarter.
Despite a withering inside 50 bombardment from the Lions, they were unable to capitalise on the scoreboard, with repeated last-ditched efforts from Dane Rampe, Nick Smith and Harry Marsh thwarting the Lions.
An early last-quarter goal by Tom Cutler gave the Lions a glimmer of hope, but Ronke’s excellent snap in the pocket a minute later pushed the lead back out to 22-points.
Allen Christensen’s snap five minutes later reduced the margin, but Kieren Jack’s conversion from a contentious 50 metre penalty just five minutes later, effectively ended the contest.
Swans superstar forward Lance Franklin barely troubled the scoreboard with 1.2 on the night, despite being the Swans’ number one inside 50 target, with Darcy Gardiner and Harris Andrews combining to shut him down.
Ben Ronke continued his outstanding start to this career with another 2-goal game, his goal-streak finally coming to an end after his eleventh-straight career goal.
The Lions tried hard all day and can hold their heads high, but the Swans class rose to the top, and in the end, they were rarely troubled.
The Swans lead by four points at quarter time, increasing their lead throughout the game.
The Swans had too much class across the ground, with young stars Isaac Heeney (20 disposals, 2 goals), Will Hayward (2 goals), Ben Ronke (2 goals), Jake Lloyd (7 rebound 50s) and George Hewett leading the way.
Midfield bull Josh Kennedy (23 contested possessions) was one of the best for the Swans, going head-to-head with Lions’ on-baller Mitch Robinson (26 contested possessions, 13 clearances).
Despite Stefan Martin dominating the ruck contests (58 hit-outs), centre clearances were even with 10 each, while the Lions collected 12 more stoppage clearances.
Rayner had the first shot on goal early in the first quarter, but could only push it through for a behind.
The Swans immediately punished the Lions, running it up the other end of the ground almost uncontested.
Lance Franklin gathered on the wing, kicked it into space for Will Hayward to run on to, and the young forward snapped it home from 20 metres out.
Jarrod Berry got one back against the flow to give the Lions the lead again, with the Swans dominating inside 50s 9-to-3.
The Swans returned fire soon after, kicking the next two goals through Ben Ronke and Tom Papley.
Great goal square scramble by the Swans midfielders found Ben Ronke on the end of a handball chain, smashing it through from close range.
Tom Papley drilled a shot through, giving the Swans an early 11-point lead, before Beams kicked the Lions second, reducing the margin to four points at the first break.
Isaac Heeney was influential throughout the second quarter, his back-to-back goals the only majors of the quarter, as the Swans flexed their muscles in torrid conditions.
Trailing by 18-points at half-time, the Lions came out breathing fire, but it was debutant Ryley Stoddart that did the damage, kicking his first goal and extending the Swans lead to 20 points.
Mitch Robinson did his best to inspire his team, throwing his weight around, lining up Hannebery early in the match with a bone crunching hip and shoulder, and driving hard throughout the match.
Swans coach John Longmire was a relieved man after the contest, after the Swans defence withstood a final-quarter barrage by the Brisbane Lions.
"They've got some talent, they go in hard, they had 80-plus tackles tonight. We feel that was a really tough game and to come away with a win, we're pleased with that," Longmire said.
"We put our defenders under the pump too much in that last quarter.
"We got beaten around the clearances too much at times and weren't as consistent around there as what we should have been.
"Mostly importantly we were happy with the win."
The Swans return home to face 18th placed Carlton, who’ve won just one game for the season. The Swans reserves won a hard-fought battle against the Lions’ reserves team earlier on Saturday afternoon, and will have plenty of headaches at the selection table, while the Blues continue to struggle with injuries.
SYDNEY 3.0 5.3 8.6 10.7 (67)
BRISBANE 2.2 2.3 4.7 6.13 (49)
Heeney 2, Hayward 2, Ronke 2, Papley, Stoddart, Franklin, Jack
Kennedy, Rampe, Hewett, Heeney, Lloyd, Jones, McVeigh
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