SYDNEY 1.2 4.2 7.5 9.8 (62) RICHMOND 4.2 6.4 7.6 7.9 (51)
Goals: Sydney: L Franklin 4 K Jack 2 S Reid 2 J McVeigh. Richmond: A Miles 2 J Riewoldt 2 A Edwards B Deledio S Hampson.
BEST Sydney: Franklin, Kennedy, Malceski, McVeigh, Parker, Jack. Richmond: Martin, Cotchin, Miles, Ellis, Chaplin, Rance.
Injuries: Sydney: R Shaw (ankle). Richmond: S Hampson (ankle).
Umpires: Chris Donlon, Jeff Dalgleish, Matthew Leppard.
Official Crowd: 34,633 at MCG.
Midway through the second quarter, following a Brett Deledio running goal, Richmond, the competition’s most disappointing team this year, led the premiership favourites by 26 points.
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Swans produce ninth straight win
The Sydney Swans were victorious over Richmond 62-52 on Friday night, with Lance Franklin performing his best late in the piece.
If this was surprising, there were some circumstances that favoured the Tigers, such as the fact that they had selected one of their better sides of this season, while the Swans were without Dan Hannebery and Kurt Tippett.
Further, the conditions were slippery – and experienced Swan watchers would know that all three Sydney defeats this year – to the Giants, Pies and Kangaroos – had been on damp days or evenings, and when they were down a player or two. In Alex Rance, the Tigers had a player who had worried Lance Franklin in their most recent duels.
Richmond’s start posed plenty of questions. The first was whether this was sustainable (uncertain), the second was if the Swans lacked intensity (definitely). The over-arching question was where this particular Richmond – the one that won the ball and kept it in Tiger hands – had been throughout the dismal 2014.
The Swans’ early unwillingness to apply their vaunted pressure was personified in the one-way duel between opposing skippers Trent Cotchin and Kieren Jack. At half-time, Cotchin had touched the ball 22 times, Brandon Ellis 21 times and Dustin Martin 18. Jack had not played tight.
It couldn’t happen, could it? The Dogs had snipped the Pies, the Dees could beat Essendon, but the notion that the 2014 version of Richmond would undo the super Swans was still hard to believe.
At the close of play, we had the outcome we expected – a Sydney victory, its ninth in a row. But the journey to that win had been more difficult than everyone envisaged. The margin of 11 points was about right.
And Lance Franklin, again, was a major reason for Sydney prevailing in a tight one. He booted four goals from a modest aggregate of nine. It mattered not that Rance bested him in many contests. Franklin produced goals when they were desperately required, including two in the final term.
The Swans didn’t have Hannebery or Tippett, but they did have plenty of others who raised an effort when they were down by 26 points. Josh Kennedy, Jarrad McVeigh, Jack, Nick Malceski, Luke Parker and Adam Goodes aren’t the kind of players who meekly succumb. And Franklin, even on a good player, can find the necessary goal.
The Swans closed to within 14 points at half-time, following Franklin’s second goal. First, they crept back into the contest. Then, in the third quarter, came the stronger Sydney putsch.
An easy snap to Jack closed the gap, then the scores were levelled when Sam Reid plucked a Royce Hart-style mark and – uncharacteristically – converted his second consecutive set shot. McVeigh and company were lifting around the ball, the Swans were swarming. The inside 50 count was ludicrously one-sided in this period – Sydney had at least the first dozen of the quarter. John Longmire had managed to quell Cotchin by sending Craig Bird to him after the main break.
Yet, Richmond’s defensive pluck prevented the Swans from converting those numerous attacks, and Sydney’s lead didn’t exceed a kick. The Tigers found some ball and, remarkably, on the three-quarter-time siren, regained the lead when Anthony Miles sank a long one from 50 metres.
If Richmond had been holding the finger in the dyke in the third term, it was the Swans’ – and Franklin’s – ability to nail the shots that mattered that counted at the end. Franklin regained the lead for the Swans from a snap, and put through what was the retrospective sealer from a holding free against Rance. The Tigers had some opportunities, and just couldn’t finish, as Riewoldt and Martin missed.
The Tigers owned the ball for the first 10-12 minutes, booted the game’s opening two goals through Riewoldt and Aaron Edwards. Sydney was disinterested at this point.
Cotchin had 14 disposals to Jack’s four in the opening quarter, the Richmond playmaker relishing the absence of Brent Macaffer-like handcuffs. Reece Conca, absent last week, brought significant ball-winning capacity to the Tiger running brigade.
Martin had continued his productive season, and the Tigers excelled in defence, conceding only one first-quarter goal from Sydney’s 10 forward entries.
Sydney’s attack did not seem nearly as potent without Tippett. But it had the other ‘‘Bondi billionaire’’ and, in a 16-goal game, his four was enough.