SYDNEY is knocking on the door of the AFL top four after beating Essendon by seven points to snare their fifth win on the bounce.
The Swans’ and Bombers’ four previous clashes had been decided by 10 points or less and Sunday’s clash at the MCG was a similarly fierce arm-wrestle, with Sydney chasing down Essendon to prevail 17.7 (109) to 16.6 (102).
Sydney is now just percentage outside the top four while Essendon remains stuck in the chasing pack outside the eight.
On his return from isolation, Swans midfielder Callum Mills (33 disposals) was exceptional alongside Luke Parker (26 touches, nine clearances and two goals), while Tom Papley (four goals) caused Essendon headaches around goals.
Essendon’s Darcy Parish (34 disposals, eight clearances) and Zach Merrett (35 disposals, 626 metres-gained) were superb, ably assisted by Kyle Langford (three goals) and Jake Stringer (two goals, nine clearances).
Reinvented defender Jayden Laverde kept Lance Franklin to two goals but suffered a shoulder injury in the second half.
The Bombers and Swans flew to Melbourne on Saturday afternoon to escape Queensland’s lockdown and Essendon settled fastest on Sunday, dominating the clearances to nudge out to an eight-point lead at quarter-time.
Sydney came out of the huddle with renewed intensity but was plagued by poor goal kicking as the slicker Bombers extended their halftime lead to 12.
Sydney kicked into gear after the main break, stringing together three early goals as the Bombers struggled to find answers for Papley and Parker, who combined for five goals for the quarter.
But Essendon wouldn’t be put away and turned the game into a shootout – with 23 goals kicked between the two teams in the second half.
The Swans kicked seven goals to Essendon’s five in the third term to seize a two-point edge at the final change, then nudged out to a game-high 19-point lead with just under five minutes left in the match.
Essendon surged late, booting the game’s final two goals – with another 11 goals kicked across the fourth quarter combined – but the Swans hung on.
(C) AAP 2021
SYDNEY 2.1 4.5 11.7 17.7 (109)
ESSENDON 3.3 6.5 11.5 16.6 (102)
Goals: Sydney: T Papley 4 L Franklin 2 L Parker 2 W Hayward 2 C Mills E Gulden J Kennedy N Blakey S Reid S Wicks T Hickey. Essendon: K Langford 3 D Smith 2 J Stringer 2 P Wright 2 Z Merrett 2 A McDonald-Tipungwuti D Clarke D Shiel N Hind T Cutler.
Umpires: Ray Chamberlain, Hayden Gavine, Alex Whetton.