Sydney's Lewis Jetta celebrates while Essendon's Courtenay Dempsey ponders what could have been. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
It's the first bye weekend of 2012 with only three matches on Saturday. Already Fremantle has stalled Richmond's momentum with an upset 12-point victory and St Kilda destroyed the Gold Coast Suns.
FINAL SCORE: Essendon 11.16 (82) Sydney Swans 13.8 (86)
Swans hang on! Stunning finish!!! One of the best you'd ever want to see ...
THE WRAP: Essendon regained most of the respect it had lost over the first three quarters with a brilliant, never-give-up final quarter. Sydney rightfully walks away with the four points and, in one sense, the Bombers are also winners after responding to a fierceful wake-up call. The TV commentators were pointing that all teams would have lost to the Swans tonight, given they way they played and exemplified by their vigorous attack on the ball. Simply, tonight was another great reason why we love the game.
Summary of the final play: Courtenay Dempsey marked just outside 50 metres but took a step to the right just before the siren...!!! The umpire rightly ruled that he had played on as the siren was heard. A long accurate kick from beyond 50 metres from the Bomber would have completed one of the best comeback wins of all time. Make sure you watch the final quarter ... at the very least.
Q4 - 31.34: GOAL! WATSON MARK AND GOAL! There's still time. The Bomber skipper has stood up big time in the final quarter.
Q4 - 26.32: SYDNEY GOAL! They stem the flow. Lewis Jetta for the Swans snaps truly. That might be enough, despite more than five minutes left on the clock.
Q4 - 25.01: GOAL!!!! Jetta for the Bombers. He somehow got his foot to the ball in the square. What a stunning final quarter this has become, eerily similar to that '92 game - Essendon v Melbourne at the 'G.
Q4 - 22.14: GOAL! Myers gets one for the Bombers. An amazing revival is underway. Only 10 points the difference with more than six minutes of game time to come.
Q4 - 18.24: GOAL! Another one! Watson converts after a 50m penalty. Calm and composed. Big Pike walked across the mark, ala Jim Stynes back in 1987. Only 16 points the difference. Essendon with six of the past seven goals!
Q4 - 16.26: GOAL! Hocking for the Bombers! Margin is only 22 points. There's real hope of a miracle victory .....
Q4 - 9.23: GOAL! But it's Bolton for the Swannies! That's a heart-breaker for the local fans. The key Swan is overjoyed and pumped. That's put the brakes on Essendon's revival. Essendon 5.16 (46) Sydney Swans 12.8 (80)
Q4 - 7.43: GOAL, GOAL, GOAL! Three goals to the Bombers to start the final quarter. Suddenly the margin is cut to 28 points and the Bomber fans find plenty of voice. Surely a come-from-behind victory is out of the question?
3QT ANALYSIS: Great stat from Joshua Kay .... last time Essendon had two goals to the final break was Anzac Day 2002. From memory Mark 'mudlark' McGough had a day out for Collingwood that day. Anyway, back to tonight's match. Amazingly, Essendon has won the clearances, Inside 50s and contested possessions yet trails by 47 points. Staggering.
Q3 - 29.12: SIREN! That's the three-quarter-time siren and it's welcomed by both teams - in a bizarre sense. James Hird gets the chance to tear shreds off his players while the Swans get to refocus for the final quarter. Just waiting for the howls of complaint to come from Bomber fans in the terraces .....
Q3 - 24.32: GOAL! McVeigh (for the Swans!). It's a dirty night for the Bombers. McVeigh makes them pay and Sydney's forward pressure is working wonders. Jude Bolton having a great night with 22 touches so far as the Swans dominate the clearances.
Q3 - 16.03: GOAL! Hold the front page! Essendon has a second goal for the night. Howlett snagged the major after nine (I repeat) nine straight goals from the Swans. Is there still hope for Bomber fans?
Q3 - 11.05: GOAL! LRT breaks Essendon's heart. Bombers all over the Swans for forward entries in the early stages of the third quarter but Sydney snags another major at close to their first chance. Swans basically home after that goal.
Q3 - 6.20: The pattern is continuing early in the third quarter. One behind to both teams. Essendon with three more Inside 50s thus far this quarter.
STATS WATCH: The Bombers lead the Inside 50s. Yep, you heard that one right. But the Swans have had 36 more possessions, including a staggering 52 more uncontested touches. Phew! The tale is told with disposal efficiency - Sydney's 70% to Essendon's 56%.
Q2 - 23.52: GOAL! Jack again. The Swans are on a big roll. Eight goals in a row. Essendon facing a one-goal return to the main break. That would be the first time they've managed that unwanted feat since 2004.
Q2 - 22.16: GOAL! Kieren Jack pops one through! The Swans are running the Bombers off their legs. Completely unexpected tactics from the 'stoppage kings'. Sydney out by 32 points!
Q2 - 19.21: Only one goal between the teams so far in the second term. Scoring has slowed to a dribble. Another goal to the Swannies will put real pressure on Essendon. Less than four minutes of game time until the main break.
Poor kicking is poor footy. Essendon with a staggering 1.10 by midway through the second quarter. Offenders all over the park. Eight minutes of footy left until half-time.
Q2 - 9.53: Tony Armstrong leading the way for Sydney with 13 touches. Jude Bolton, Bird and O'Keefe not far behind. Watson characteristically holding his head up high for Essendon.
Q2 - 4.45: GOAL! A dashing goal from Rhyce Shaw. That effort has completely ruled out Essendon's improved showing in the opening minutes of the second term. That's six goals in a row for the Swannies.
Q1 ANALYSIS: Sam Reid in arguably his best for the season managed two goals as the Swans got off to a great start for this away match. Sydney destroying the Bombers for overall disposals, including a stack of uncontested possessions, a staggering 75 to 35. Phew! There's a lingering feeling that the Bombers are firmly in the middle of a mid-season slump. Time will tell for sure.
Q1 - 20.50 - Sorry for the delay footy fans. Swans off to a flyer at Etihad. They've got four goals on the board - all solitary goal-scorers - and lead Essendon by three goals with a few minutes left in the opening stanza.
FINAL SCORE: Gold Coast 7.7 (49) St Kilda 21.18 (144)
Q4 - 30:12: SIREN! A percentage-boosting victory for the Saints. They did everything right and didn't take the foot off the pedal. That's two 90+ point victories for the St Kilda over Gold Coast this season.
Q4 - 27.54: GOAL! Siposs snaps a beauty for the Saints. Goal assist came from Goddard and Riewoldt sheparded the kick through. Fantastic team goal. Gold Coast 7.7 (49) St Kilda 21.18 (144)
Q4 - 26.16: GOAL! Milne's second for the quarter, St Kilda's 20th goal. Margin out to 89 points with the elusive 100-point margin still within sight. Less than three minutes to play.
Q4 - 22.39: Gram 27, Dal Santo 24, Hayes 23, Armitage 22, Goddard 21, Riewoldt 21, Steven 21, Montagna 21 ... that's the possession count, folks. It goes on and on. Gary Ablett: 19. A week is a long time in footy.
Q4 - 15.09: GOAL! Riewoldt. A straight-forward major. But it's his seventh for the game. The Coasters have allowed him to 'get his eye in' tonight. It's going to be a season of woe for Gold Coast. Can't see them getting anywhere near an AFL victory in the short-term.
Q4 - 7.24: Two goals to the Saints to start the final term, one to Riewoldt and one to Milne. A 100-point victory is still within sight for St Kilda. Six goals to Riewoldt - can he match cousin Jack's effort of last week?
STATS WATCH: Saints well ahead on most stats measures but are breaking even with GC on disposal efficiency and are narrowly behind on the tackle count ... when you can't get the pill you end up tackling more! St Kilda's midfield brigade is building up a stack of possessions with Hayes, Dal Santo, Armitage and Steven getting big numbers. Riewoldt set for BOG honours with 19 touches and five goals to the final break.
* There's a late change ahead of the Essendon-Sydney match at Etihad. The Bombers have suffered a blow with David Zaharakis out, replaced by Nathan Lovett-Murray. David Myers is Essendon's substitute. Dyson, Lonergan and Davey to start on the bench.
Q3 - 32.30: A long-running quarter owing to the Saad injury. Coasters have managed the past two goals - both to Tom Hickey - to lift morale.
Q3 - 27.12: Ablett showing some frustration for Gold Coast. He just picked up his first possession for the quarter, giving him a miserly 13 possessions for the game. We judge him harshly ....
There has been a bad injury. Saad had a 'turn-away-now' head clash with GC's Josh Caddy and the first-year Saint is being stretchered off on the cart. Saints immediately activate their sub with Scheider coming into the game with less than nine minutes to play in the third quarter.
Q3 - 16.24: Another tough day at the office for the Coasters .... Riewoldt having a night out with five goals so far. He's chasing his cousin's effort of last week. Hayes, Armitage and Gram the big possession-winners. Still only 12 touches for Ablett.
Q3 - 7.49: GOAL! Riewoldt again. The skipper snags his fourth from in close. That's the first goal of the second half and the Saints extend their lead to 50 points.
HALF-TIME STATS WATCH: Saints dominating all the important stats categories and are well ahead on overall disposals, uncontested possessions and Inside 50s. Gary Ablett uncharacteristically 'quiet' with only 12 touches. Shame on him! Boy, oh, boy, he sets hight standards. Riewoldt is getting a shot of confidence and his third goal for the match was also the 500th of his career. Saints should be aiming for a 75+ point victory by game's end.
Q2 - 29.57: GOAL! Jason Blake gets among the goals. If his potential first-up Brownlow Medal vote wasn't enough (from a couple of weeks ago) .... the swingman can now boast about the 37th goal of his 200+ game career.
Q2 - 28.33: Saints well on top with the past four goals, with two of those coming from goalsneak Saad. St Kilda has completely turned around the contested possession discrepancy this quarter and now have 15 more for the match.
Q2 - 20.05: GOAL! Two quick majors for the Saints. Dal Santo does the damage. Saints out by 27 points with Gram, Hayes, Montaga starting to get on top.
Q2 - 18.54: GOAL! It's Riewoldt's 500th career goal. More importantly it's also his third for the match as the Saints gain some much-needed breathing space.
Q2 - 13.27: Coasters back in the contest with two second-quarter goals. Milera is St Kilda's solitary goalscorer in the quarter thus far. But the Saints are getting on top on the contested possession count, particularly in the last 10 minutes. Ablett with only eight touches for Gold Coast.
STATS WATCH: Saints blitzing Gold Coast with uncontested possessions, showing they are taking their time with their forward thrusts. Riewoldt snagged two goals in the opening term to give him 499 career goals. Gram accumulated 12 posessions while late inclusion Clarke and Montagna picked up eight touches each.
Q1 - 24.17: GOAL! Steven on the board for the Saints. Jason Gram in red-hot form early with 12 possessions so far, but the Coasters are ahead with contested possessions and narrowly ahead on the tackle count.
Q1 - 17.41: GOAL! Raphael Clarke gets on the board after being a late inclusion. He converted directly in front on the arc. Saints looking sharp so far.
The Saints made two late changes for this game. Farren Ray and Jason Cripps dropped out of the team, replaced by Raphael Clarke and Adam Schneider. The Schneider Man is St Kilda's substitute with Newnes, Armitage and Milne on the bench.
Q1 - 13.26: Saints again. Riewoldt grabs his second major after an uncontested mark. That's 499 career goals for the skipper
Q1 - 10.46: GOAL! St Kilda's first. Riewoldt takes strong contested mark and converts. Saints in front. Don't think they'll be headed from this point.
Sydney's Jude Bolton celebrates his crucial final quarter goal. Photo: Getty Images