Emotions ran high at the MCG on Sunday night, after the Swans hung on for a desperate nine-point win, keeping them in the finals hunt and crucially, a top-four finish.
Isaac Heeney was the man of the moment, taking a spectacular mark mid-way through the fourth quarter that’s sure to get him the nod for mark of the week, as the Demons pounded on the Swans’ front door.
Melbourne’s pressure was immense, turning a marginal inside 50 lead (42-38) at three quarter time, into a devastating advantage (60-43).
Despite their midfield dominance, they struggled to convert gilt-edge opportunities, enduring a torrid night in front of goals, finishing with 18 behinds and kicking just three goals from 18 entries in the last quarter.
Before Nathan Jones reduced the margin to 7-points – the closest the Demons would come, Jesse Hogan sprayed a set shot on the full, giving the Swans a crucial reprieve.
Hogan was the chief culprit in the forward line, kicking 1 goal from 5 shots, while Clayton Oliver missed a crucial set shot late in the game and Nathan Jones sprayed a shot on the full, with under four minutes remaining.
Isaac Heeney was everywhere in the back 50 in the last quarter, taking three crucial intercept marks, and saving a goal right on the line, while Aliir Aliir (10 marks) was superb in the air.
Clayton Oliver (27 disposals, 12 tackles) got off the chain in the last quarter, finally breaking George Hewett’s close check, even playing at full forward to break the tag.
He was one of the reasons why the Demons were able to capitalise on their two-man advantage and nearly overturn a 28-point three quarter time deficit.
Even under the immense inside 50 pressure, the Swans defenders held firm, lead brilliantly by Jarrad McVeigh (15 disposals) and Jake Lloyd (31 disposals, 10 marks), while Nic Newman (12 marks, 22 disposals) provided a crucial outlet.
James Harmes (26 disposals) and Angus Brayshaw (26 disposals) were important ball winners for the Demons early on, as they built an early lead into the first quarter break.
They capitalised on the Swans’ lapse in concentration when luckless Swans defender Alex Johnson tragically left the field in the arms of the trainers, with a suspected sixth ruptured ACL – this time on his right knee.
After losing Nick Smith early in the second quarter to a hamstring injury, with just two players on the bench, the Swans seized control of the midfield, booting six goals in sixteen minutes to snatch the lead back.
Harry Cunningham’s slotted the first major for the Swans in the second quarter, his goal a result of repeat inside 50s, while Will Hayward’s snap took a lucky leg break to bounce through.
Isaac Heeney banged through the Swans’ third of the quarter and just seconds later, Dan Hannebery skidded through the Swans fourth to put them in front, his first goal of the season.
Jordan Dawson and captain Josh Kennedy rounded out the scoring for the Swans, while the Demons kicked three consecutive behinds to finish the quarter.
Lance Franklin hit the scoreboard early in the third quarter, breaking away from Frosts’ close checking, extending the Swans’ lead to four goals, while returning Demon Aaron vandenBerg kicked the Demons’ first major for over a quarter.
It was end-to-end exciting football with the Demons working their way back on top in the midfield, but goals to Isaac Heeney and Tom McCartin threatened to blow the game wide open.
Two quick replies by Aaron vandenBerg and Tom McDonald reduced the margin to two goals, but the Swans capitalised on six-straight clearances to extend the margin back out to four goals.
Papley kicked two goals in four minutes to give the Swans an important 28-point three quarter time break, and it proved enough in the end.
The Demons came back in the fourth quarter with a vengeance, but crucial intercept play by Nic Newman, Isaac Heeney and Aliir Aliir ensured the Swans win.
The Swans’ win sees them move up to sixth on the ladder, while the loss consigns the Demons to seventh on the ladder.
With games to come against the West Coast Eagles (PS) and the Giants (MCG), there’s a very real chance the Demons could miss the finals altogether, while the Swans face the Giants (SPO) and Hawthorn (SCG) in their final two rounds.
The Swans return to Sydney to face the in-form Giants, who’ve won nine from their last ten, but face a mounting injury crisis, while the Demons travel west to face the Eagles with their season on the line.
SYDNEY 1.1 7.2 13.6 13.9 87
MELBOURNE 2.6 3.12 7.14 10.18 78
Alex Johnson left the field in the first quarter with a suspect anterior cruciate ligament rupture in his right knee. Nick Smith left the field early in the second quarter with a hamstring strain
Jesse Hogan received treatment in the third quarter for a foot issue. Jayden Hunt left the field in the last quarter with an ankle injury and didn’t return. Neville Jetta was assessed for concussion in the third quarter, but was able to play on.
Sydney: Papley 3, Heeney 2, Franklin 2, Cunningham, Hayward, Hannebery, Dawson, Kennedy, McCartin
Melbourne:vandebBerg 3, T.McDonald 2, Petracca, Hogan, Pedersen, Garlett, Jones
Sydney: Hewett, Newman, Lloyd, Heeney, McVeigh, Franklin, Aliir
Melbourne: Brayshaw, Tyson, Harmes, Oliver, Salem
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