Red flash: As the setting sun leaves its dazzling mark, Sydney's Josh Kennedy leads the race for the ball at the SCG on Sunday. Photo: Getty Images
SYDNEY 5.3 8.7 13.10 16.14 (110) RICHMOND 5.3 6.4 8.7 9.9 (63)
GOALS Sydney: White 4, Tippett 3, K Jack 2, Mitchell 2, B Jack, Bolton, Lamb, Pyke, Smith. Richmond: Riewoldt 3, Martin 2, Jackson, White, Conca, Vickery.
BEST Sydney: O'Keefe, K.Jack, Mitchell, Hannebery, White, Mumford, Bird. Richmond: Martin, Cotchin, Riewoldt, Grigg.
UMPIRES Stevic, Meredith, Stewart.
CROWD 29,738 at SCG.
There comes a time in each season when injuries finally get the better of a side, and on Sunday it seemed Sydney had reached that point.
The Swans began the game without eight premiership stars and seconds later looked set to be without a ninth when Nick Malceski was creamed by Ty Vickery.
|View Match Statistics|
|Players||White (4.1), Tippett (3.2), Mitchell (2.2), Jack (2.0), Lamb (1.1), Bolton (1.0), Jack (1.0), Pyke (1.0), Smith (1.0), Bird (0.1), Hannebery (0.1), McVeigh (0.1), O'Keefe (0.1), Parker (0.1)||Scorers||Riewoldt (3.2), Martin (2.0), Jackson (1.1), Vickery (1.1), Conca (1.0), White (1.0), Ellis (0.2), Deledio (0.1), Foley (0.1)|
As far as statements go few come more emphatic than Vickery's – a crunching but perfectly legal shirtfront delivered with enough force to leave the victim clutching his shoulder. Richmond meant business, and importantly its trade was more than heavy hits.
The Tigers had a goal on the board within the opening 60 seconds and a second four minutes later. The trend of the game was also suggesting the Tigers had good reason to believe a six-game losing streak at the venue was about to be over.
In recent years, clubs have come to the SCG and been choked by a Sydney outfit committed to a certain style of play.
But the Tigers were dictating terms to John Longmire's men. The Swans might be ugly ducklings no more but that does not mean they prefer high-voltage, end-to-end football.
This suited the likes of Dustin Martin, who had nine possessions and two goals by quarter-time, Ricky Petterd and Chris Newman – the latter two generating plenty of run out of defence.
The Swans were by no means being run off their legs. In fact, they were in front before time-on, thanks to a goal from the most unlikely of providers, Nick Smith, and would have held on to the lead had Ryan O'Keefe's turnover deep in attack not resulted in a goal at the other end to Jack Riewoldt.
For Richmond, the first quarter was as good as it got and it now faces another week of having its finals credentials scrutinised.
The Swans gained control of the game in the second term, though it could have been better reflected on the scoreboard, they upped the ante in the third and applied the blowtorch in the last.
All the more impressively for the Swans, they received key contributions from players such as Tom Mitchell and Jesse White, who did not feature last September. Mitchell showed why he deserves consideration by the Rising Star Award judges with another performance beyond his slender years, while White turned in one of the best matches of his career.
The Swans big man bagged two goals in the third term after marking strongly. If he continues in this rich vein of form he will make it hard for Sam Reid to break back into the 22.
Having battled gamely to stay within reach of the Swans in the second quarter, the Tigers were washed away by wave after wave of red and white pressure after half-time.
So polished in the first quarter, the Tigers were reduced to a bumbling mess by the final term.
Brett Deledio was again unable to shake off a tag, this time from Craig Bird, while Newman struggled after quarter-time.
At the end it seemed hard to believe that only two hours earlier both sides had been hunting for the same position in the top four.