SYDNEY 5.3 8.6 11.8 13.8 (86)
ESSENDON 1.5 1.11 2.15 11.16 (82)
Courtenay Dempsey will be haunted for life as he played on with a second to go and squandered the chance to kick the after-the-siren goal to seal what would have been the biggest three-quarter-time comeback ever.
The Swans held on for a four point win in the tensest of finishes after pressuring the Bombers out of the game and cruising into the last quarter with a 47-point lead.
In a clash that could see the winner head to the top of the AFL pops, a tight contest was expected, with the last few clashes between the teams decided by the barest of margins, yet the Swans rebounded and moved the footy with devastating speed and pressured the Bombers into errant disposals and poor decisions all over the ground. The Swans spare man in defence nullifying the Bombers dominance of inside fifties and clearances.
The Swans sent Shane Mumford to deep full forward to anchor Dustin Fletcher to the goal-line, where even his arms couldn’t play much of a role. Coach John Longmire also tried to initially conjure a match up of the clearance kings Jobe Watson and Josh Kennedy.
Essendon snared the opening goal when Alwyn Davey was perfectly poised to snare the crumbs from a contest; and to have a backman’s whinge, it seems any time a defender gets in front, they aren’t afforded the same luxury for chopping the arms or over the shoulder as a forward.
The game was surprisingly open and fast, with 33 forward fifty entries for the first quarter, spilt 17-16; however everything the Bombers did was under extreme duress. The Swans were winning the crucial ball and rebounding too quickly for the Bombers. The Swans were able to spread the ball from their backline and find the likes of Lewis Jetta and Daniel Hannebery in space meaning their forwards could capitalise on the unpressured disposal coming in, with Sam Reid kicking two, and Mumford one from set shots from marks on the lead.
At the other end the Bombers were suffering from set-shot shakes, kicking one goal five for the quarter and worse, scored only six more minors for the second quarter for the Swans to lead comfortably at half time 8.6 54 to 1.11 17.
Essendon came out hard in the second half and were unlucky to concede the first scoring shot after an incorrect disposal decision against Mike Pike was let go. Footy karma prevailed though, and Jetta missed the subsequent set shot. A perfect 60 metre pass on the run by Stewart Crameri deserved a better finish than a banana into the post from Monfries.
Davey belted Daniel Hannebery with a huge bump that saw him subbed off – but for all the pressure the Bombers were exerting it was the Swans that kicked the first goal of the second half, again with a quick transition.
Brent Stanton was being quelled and team tagged by the Swans; and with his only fourth disposal hit Davey who converted for the Bombers to kick the first goal of the last quarter, and responded a couple of minutes later to reduce the margin to 34.
Newly found Essendon forward pressure stopped the Swans rebounding outlets and Ben Howlett reduced the margin to 22. There was life in this one yet.
Jobe Watson, David Myers and Leroy Jetta goaled, and suddenly the Swans’ 47 point lead had turned into four points and the Bombers had kicked eight of the last nine goals.
Lewis Jetta clawed one back for the Swans but Watson stood tall and marked and goaled for the Bombers to again make the margin four points with 1:46 remaining.
The climax of the game came with only seconds remaining: Dempsey unfortunately choosing to play on with seconds left on the clock. The anguish, despair, and ultimately regret from Dempsey was instantaneous, immediately attempting to pull up to avoid the play on being called, but it was all too late.
The Swans, after leading by 47 points, would hold on and claim top spot on the ladder. Just.
3) Lewis Jetta
2) Jobe Watson
1) Jude Bolton
Essendon: Davey 3, Watson 2, Hocking, Howlett, Jetta, Lovett-Murray, Myers, Stanton
Sydney Swans: Jetta 3, Jack 2, Reid 2, Bolton, Everitt, McVeigh, Mumford, Roberts-Thomson, Shaw
Essendon: Watson, Ryder, Howlett, Davey, Dyson
Sydney Swans: Jetta, Bolton, Richards, O’Keefe, Armstrong, Grundy, Shaw
Essendon: David Zaharakis (quad) replaced in selected side by Nathan Lovett-Murray
Sydney Swans: Hannebery (concussion)
Essendon: Tom Bellchambers replaced by David Myers at half-time
Sydney Swans: Dan Hannebery (concussion) replaced by Nick Malceski in the third quarter
Umpires: Margetts, Meredith, McInerney