Sydney has bolstered its chances of a top-four berth, producing a breathtaking first-quarter blitz before seeing off a plucky Adelaide outfit at the SCG to record its fourth win in five games.
The Swans slammed on nine goals in a stunning opening-term as Lance Franklin and Tom Papley set the tone both with and without the ball.
The Crows applied much better pressure after quarter-time and got within striking distance of Sydney several times, but lacked the same polish in front of goal as the Swans, who ran out 33-point winners, 17.16 (118) to 12.13 (85).
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QUARTER-BY-QUARTER MATCH REPORT
There were no late changes for either side, with Sam Wicks (Sydney) and Brayden Cook (Adelaide) named the medical subs.
The Swans got the fast start with a set-shot goal to Tom Papley, thanks to a sizzling field kick from Lance Franklin.
“It’s one of the most underrated parts of Buddy’s career,” Brownlow Medallist Gerard Healy told Fox Footy.
The Crows hit back less than a minute later, with Darcy Fogarty snapping a major to continue his excellent recent form. But another brilliant Franklin field kick set up a goal for Swan Sam Reid, who made it three goals in the first three minutes.
Then the game turned into a dogfight as both teams showed great intensity at the contest.
“There’s going to be a million tackles today … just the sort of game Adelaide want,” Healy said.
The Swans then found their rhythm, particularly from stoppage. The in-form Chad Warner nailed a tough shot from the pocket after a forward 50 stoppage, before Papley had a second goal from a centre bounce.
And when Will Hayward pounced on a loose ball and snapped a tough goal, the Swans had an early 26-point lead.
“The pressure is quite superb at the present time,” Healy said.
The Crows got one against the grain, with Taylor Walker snapping his first thanks to great courage from Shane McAdam and strength from Sam Berry.
But Sydney responded at the other end, with Dylan Stephens converting a set-shot after earning a free kick as he continued his hot start to the game.
Isaac Heeney added another before Errol Gulden snapped his first of the game as the Swans slammed on their eighth goal of the match.
Franklin then found some space inside 50 and kicked his first, drawing level with Gary Ablett Sr on the all-time VFL/AFL goalkicking ladder.
At quarter-time the Swans led by 42 points and had 9.3 (57) on the scoreboard — their high first-quarter score since Round 18, 1997.
The Crows gave away a free kick off the ball before the siren sounded to start the second term. Less than 30 seconds later, Callum Mills drifted forward to kick the Swans’ second goal to pile on the pain.
“Right now, they’d be coming off shell-shocked, some of their (the Crows’) young players, and he (coach Matthew Nicks) will be focusing on just the next event,” Healy said.
Rory Laird then got one against the grain, nailing a long-range goal after strong Adelaide pressure up the field before Walker kicked his second from a set-shot to give the Crows two straight majors.
The Crows were dealt a blow early in the quarter, with McAdam subbed out with a corked thigh and replaced by Cook.
But that didn’t deter Adelaide, with Berry continuing his excellent game with two consecutive goals to stem the bleeding after a classy Ryan Clarke goal.
At half-time the Swans led by 32 points, but it was a much better showing from the Crows in the second term as they kicked four goals to two.
Adelaide got the perfect start to the quarter, with Lachlan Murphy applying great pressure and snapping a goal to reduce the Swans’ lead to 25 points.
“Just a little worrying sign for John Longmire and the Sydney Swans camp,” Healy said.
“The Swans need a response here, they’re being outworked.”
Brad Johnson added: “This is a great fightback by the Adelaide Crows.”
Both teams struggled in front of goal, with the Swans struggling to bury Adelaide.
But Wayne Milera showed great class, calmly snapping the Crows’ fourth straight goal to reduce the deficit to 20 points.
“There’d be a red light flashing right now in front of John Longmire’s eye,” Healy said. “He knows they were hot in the first quarter but have kicked two goals since.
“They cannot find a way and a method to go to the forward line.”
But a couple of brilliant individual efforts by Swans players gave their team some breathing space.
Nick Blakey produced a terrific defensive effort to stop a certain Ned McHenry goal before Chad Warner burst away on the SCG wing to hit Franklin on the chest. Franklin kicked truly to record his 1032nd goal, passing Geelong legend Gary Ablett Snr and moving to fifth on the all-time VFL/AFL goalkicking table.
“He’s an icon of the sport, he’s heading for legend status in the Hall of Fame – but they just needed a good old, old-fashioned Buddy Franklin goal, the Swans,” Healy said.
Heeney then added another as the Swans before ex-Swan Jordan Dawson kicked truly — amid boos from Sydney fans — to respond for Adelaide.
But Dawson then missed an opportunity to give Sydney a real scare, missing a set-shot after the three quarter-time siren to ensure the Crows still trailed by 28 points at the final change.
The Crows produced a fast start, with Walker gathering cleanly and launching a wonderful long goal that bounced through from 70m out.
But Joel Amartey responded immediately for Sydney, dribbling through a clever goal.
The goal-for-goal nature continued as Jake Soligo snapped a terrific major, before Franklin marked strongly and kicked his third followed by a McHenry goal.
But the Crows ran out of juice late in the last quarter, with Hayward booting two straight goals to seal victory.
THE 3-2-1 …
3. ‘SUPERB’ PRESSURE SPARKS SCARY SWANS’ 25-YEAR FIRST
Considering the Crows’ most recent performance against Collingwood last week, Saturday’s clash at the SCG loomed as a danger game for the Swans.
But it soon became clear Sydney wouldn’t be slipping on any Adelaide-coloured banana peels as the in-form Swans produced their best and most ominous opening quarter in decades.
Sydney’s fourth win in five games was set up by a blistering first term in which it kicked 9.3 to Adelaide’s 2.3. It was the Swans’ best-ever first quarter against Adelaide and their best since Round 18, 1997 (10.5 against Melbourne).
The dominant first term was a result of Sydney’s epic pressure, laying 29 tackles to Adelaide’s 22 – despite having more of the ball (+24). Fourteen of those Swans tackles were laid inside forward 50, compared to Adelaide’s four.
“The pressure was superb,” Brownlow Medallist Gerard Healy told Fox Footy.
“It set them up for nine goals in the first quarter. It was scintillating footy.”
Sydney’s relentless pressure subsequently led to dominance in two key areas: Ball control and scores from stoppages.
The Swans took 27 marks for the quarter while restricting Adelaide to six. That control meant they dominated territory, winning the inside 50 count 20-11 – and the disorganised Crows backline stood little chance.
Tom Papley was sent into stoppages, including a couple of centre bounces and had an immediate impact, including a long-range goal.
“The one little kink in their armour at the present time is the clearance work and scores from stoppage. Last week just one goal, but they’ve got three already (in 10 minutes),” Healy said of the Swans.
“It’s a big, big win and they have made a mark early in the piece.”
2. BUDDY USURPS ABLETT IN LATEST FEAT AS STAR UNVEILS ‘UNDERRATED’ TRAIT IN ‘FRIGHTENING’ GAME
Age, nor ample conjecture over his next footy contract, is not deterring Lance Franklin or diminishing his influence on the Swans’ fortunes.
In fact Franklin on Saturday was “in a different gear” against the Adelaide Crows compared to other 2022 matches.
The superstar full-forward, who remains uncontracted beyond this season, was at his damaging best against Adelaide, booting 3.0 from 10 disposals and four inside 50s.
His second goal — a trademark snap on his left boot in the third term — saw him pass Gary Ablett Senior and move into fifth spot on the all-time VFL/AFL goalkicking leaderboard.
But it wasn’t necessarily Franklin’s direct scoreboard impact that stood out for the Swans, particularly early in the game.
The 35-year-old set up Sydney’s first two goals of the game – to Tom Papley and Sam Reid – thanks to sizzling kicks inside 50.
“It’s been one of the most underrated parts of Buddy’s career and that is how good a kick he is to people on the run,” Brownlow Medallist Gerard Healy told Fox Footy.
“He would love to be kicking it to himself, I reckon. There’s been very few who can spear the ball like that and set up a full-forward leading out on the charge.”
Of Franklin’s 10 disposals, nine led to Swans scores and three led directly to goals to Swans teammates.
Just as important, though, was Franklin’s defensive pressure. The Swans had seven more tackles than the Crows in the first term, 29-22 – and Franklin laid four of them in the first 10 minutes before finishing with five for the match.
Franklin had only laid four tackles in a game once previously in 2022.
“It started with Buddy and everyone else jumped on board,” Bulldogs legend Brad Johnson told Fox Footy.
Healy added: “I haven’t seen Buddy play that well for an extended period of 30 minutes for a long time. He’s been a cameo player, but it was the full package.
“I‘ve enjoyed his game. He’s in a different gear than what he’s travelled in for a fair bit of this season, Buddy. He is out to make a point.
“That was frightening to see him go back to that form … Time to get the contract settled before he does that four or five weeks in a row and his price goes up.”
1. SHREWD MOVE THAT HELPED CROWS RECRUIT RELEASE SHACKLES DESPITE BOOS
Sydney ensured Jordan Dawson had a tough start to his first game against his old club.
But a shrewd move by Crows coach Matthew Nicks helped Dawson release the shackles and have a significant impact – despite jeers from Swans fans.
Dawson, who last year was traded to the Crows in exchange for a first-round pick after six seasons on the Swans’ list, was blanketed by Hawk Finn Maginness a few weeks ago before being manned up by Pies veteran Steele Sidebottom for the first half last week.
On Saturday, Dawson returned to the SCG and was immediately met by Swans tagger Ryan Clarke, who applied the clamps on the left-footer, restricting him to five disposals in the first term.
But Dawson was moved into the forward line in the second term – and Clarke moved off him – then really got going in the third term, kicking 1.1 from seven disposals, three inside 50s and three marks for the quarter.
His goal came amid jeers from Swans fans – but Dawson had the last laugh (for that moment, at least).
“They’ve been building, these boos for the former Swan,” Johnson said.
“They weren’t really there early, but the last couple of times he’s been able to grab it, they’ve switched onto it.”
Dawson’s goal came amid a strong Crows fightback that saw them kick seven goals to four across the third and fourth terms as Adelaide upped their defensive pressure and locked the ball inside their forward half.
But Nicks’ men lacked polish in front of goal and panic saw them miss crucial opportunities – and the Swans were able to run away comfortably.
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