This year’s NAB Cup has again yielded another dramatic finish after Essendon defeated Sydney by just two points in a 1.14.12 (105) to 1.14.10 (103) win.
The tight finish eerily resembled that of the pair’s clash in Round 20 of last year, when for the second time in a row the siren blew with the ball in Adam Goodes’ hands.
Even the brave efforts of the dual Brownlow Medallist couldn’t lift Sydney over the line for a shot at a grand final berth.
Paddy Ryder’s goal with four minutes remaining stretched the Bombers’ lead to an insurmountable eight-point margin, capping off a masterful performance.
Brent Stanton was everywhere with 23 disposals, including 19 kicks in his first match for the NAB Cup, alongside fellow returnee Jobe Watson, who finished with a game-high 27 possessions.
Goodes’ supergoal late in the first quarter, and the first of the match, put the Swans within four points at the opening break.
The match lived up to expectations early, with both sides going in with close to full-strength line-ups.
Sydney wrenched the lead in its favour in the second term and had some run through youngsters Gary Rohan and Luke Parker, but again Essendon refused to lie down.
The Bombers kicked four consecutive goals late in the first half to open up an 18-point buffer at the long break, and looked dangerous with Ryder a lynchpin up forward and captain Watson finding plenty of the footy.
Essendon built on its half-time lead to extend the margin to four goals through a classy Heath Hocking major, and the Bombers almost looked like they could run away with the match and set up their first win of the pre-season competition.
Yet it was Rohan whose open goal from point-blank range that injected some life back into the Swans.
Rookie Harry Cunningham also found himself in the thick of things with two margin-reducing goals, before an opportunistic left-foot snap from Goodes brought Sydney within a point at three-quarter-time.
The match was suddenly anyone’s game again and Sydney, carrying momentum from the previous quarter, scored consecutive goals from imposing forward target Sam Reid and the lively Parker inside five minutes.
Ryder’s presence was again felt inside Essendon’s forward 50, and the versatile big man kicked his third goal seven minutes into the quarter to reduce Sydney’s lead back to four points.
A captain’s goal from Watson put the Bombers back in front and set the crowd of 12,000 alight.
When Ryder consolidated with four minutes left, the result wash settled.
Reid’s late consolation goal left him with an impressive tally of four majors and reduced the gap to two points but the Swans ultimately ran out of time.
ESSENDON 0.3.4 1.7.7 1.11.9 1.14.12 (105)
SYDNEY SWANS 1.1.3 1.4.7 1.11.8 1.14.10 (103)
Sydney Swans: Goodes
Essendon: Ryder 4, Crameri 2, Hurley 2, Colyer 2, Watson 2, Melksham, Hocking
Sydney Swans: Reid 4, Parker 2, Rohan 2, Cunningham 2, Reid, Everitt, Jetta, Mumford, Goodes
Essendon: Watson, Ryder, Stanton, Heppell, Crameri, Colyer
Sydney Swans: Shaw, Grundy, Kennedy, Parker, McVeigh, Goodes
Sydney Swans: Jack (shin)
Umpires: Leppard, Stevic, Meredith
Estimated crowd: 12,000 at Etihad Stadium