Sydney have kicked a flurry of late goals to defeat a gallant St Kilda by 29 points at the SCG.
Sydney 1.6, 5.13, 9.13, 15.15 – 105
St Kilda 5.1, 5.4, 7.9, 10.16, – 76
St Kilda, desperate for a win to hold onto eighth spot, dominated early, kicking the first five goals of the game.
Stephen Milne seemingly had an AVO out on the Sydney defence as no one could get near him as he flew for a hanger. He was then first to the ground ball before weaving around four Swans to kick his third first-quarter goal.
The Swans’ usual blockbuster beginnings and goal-kicking accuracy crumbled like their Noble Stand backdrop as Saints pressure and wasteful kicking saw Sydney register six behinds before Jarrad McVeigh finally notched a major late goal in the term.
St Kilda were winning the hard ball and made the most of their chances. Sydney were leading the inside 50s 15 – 10, yet their wasteful kicking to the rubble end saw the Saints lead by 19 at quarter time.
Ryan O’Keefe had been used as a spare man in the Swans defence to counter the twin talls of Justin Koschitzke and Nick Riewoldt in the opening term. His move to the middle Adam Goodess move deep forward paid almost instant results for the Swans, as Goodes benefitted from some quick clearance work to pop through an easy goal after two minutes.
Kieran Jack crumbed and snapped a loose ball and then Ben McGlynn converted a free for in-the-back to draw the Swans level nine minutes into the second quarter.
Both sides squandered chances, yet the Swans pressed and pressured as a string of behinds saw kickout after kickout come sailing back into the Sydney forward line. The sequence of sprayed shots was only broken by a classy mark and finish by Josh Kennedy that put the Swans eight clear after 20 minutes.
The ball was seemingly fixed in Sydney’s forward half, yet a return of four goals seven, and an equally wasteful three behinds for the quarter for the Saints, saw the Swans lead by nine at half-time.
Swans ruckman Shane Mumford was subbed off at half-time with a jarred knee, yet Goodes again kicked a goal in the second minute to give the Swans their biggest lead.
Sam Gilbert responded for the Saints after a strong grab, running back with the flight of the ball. This time it was the St Kilda forwards who pressed, forcing uncharacteristic turnovers and kicks spraying out of bounds on the full by the usually composed and potent attacking rebound of the Sydney back six.
Yet all the pressure yielded just two goals- including substitute Sam Dunnell fresh off the bench for his first ever league goal – and four behinds to the Saints, while the Swans, with a goal to Grundy and late ones to Lewis Roberts-Thompson and Lewis Jetta, took a 16-point lead into three-quarter time.
St Kilda almost had the perfect start to the last when Adam Schneider marked inside 50 in the first 30 seconds, but he missed the shot and another soon after, as did Riewoldt and Dempster.
Milne goaled from a free kick to bring them within four. O’Keefe countered for the Swans and Milne struck back.
Craig Bird then got one back for the Swans but the Saints started to stand up.
Brendan Goddard pushed forward, Lenny Hayes was starting to get his hands on it and ‘Kozi’ was taking grabs in front of Ted Richards.
The Saints were marching, Goodes gave away a free after an ugly-looking slide into Clinton Jones, the ball was whipped up field and Koschitzke goaled to get them within four after 23 minutes.
The Swans worked the ball forward with stoppage after stoppage and in the vital contest of the game, a quick kickout of defence by St Kilda found Sam Fisher with only Nick Smith and daylight ahead.
Smith desperately lunged and dispossessed Fisher, Goodes gathered the loose ball and kicked it to the hotspot, where it spilled from the pack for a ball- up.
From the resulting stoppage, Jack snapped a goal and momentum was with the Swans.
Then Reid and Jude Bolton (2) goaled to see the Swans retain top spot with a 29-point final margin.
Sydney: Goodes 2, Jack 2, Bolton 2, Reid, Bird, O’Keefe, Jetta, Roberts
-Thompson, Grundy, Kennedy, McGlynn, McVeigh
St Kilda: Milne 5, Fisher, Montagna, Dempster, Gilbert, Jones
Sydney: Kennedy, O’Keefe, McVeigh, Shaw, Pyke, Malceski
St Kilda: Milne, Gwilt, Montagna, Goddard
3 - Josh Kennedy (Sydney)
2 - Ryan O’Keefe (Sydney)
1 - Stephen Milne (St Kilda)
Crowd: 26, 834
Injuries: Mumford (knee, subbed off at half time)