ESSENDON has overcome the late withdrawal of star skipper Dyson Heppell and a stern challenge by Sydney to score a gritty 10-point win at the MCG.
The Swans led by three points at three-quarter time, but the Bombers sprang to life to boot the first four goals of Saturday afternoon’s final term to set up a 11.10 (76) to 9.12 (66) win in front of 60,199 fans.
The victory was the resurgent Essendon’s fourth in their past five matches and snapped a run of three wins for Sydney, whose last victory against the Bombers at the MCG was in 1923.
Heppell was ruled out with a sore foot before the opening bounce, but Dylan Shiel (29 possessions), Darcy Parish (22) and David Zaharakis (22 touches and three goals) stepped up in his absence.
Josh Kennedy was outstanding for the Swans with 35 disposals, as was Isaac Heeney with 33. But, with Lance Franklin still absent due to a hamstring injury, they struggled to find a focal point in attack.
Both sides were missing their No.1 ruckmen, with back-ups Zac Clarke and Aliir Aliir shouldering the burden at the stoppages.
Clarke had just one handball to three-quarter time, but redeemed himself to some extent in the final term when he provided a stronger presence.
He finished with five disposals and 25 hitouts, while Aliir had 17 touches and 22 hitouts.
Neither team appeared keen to take the game on early, with the Bombers edging to a five-point lead at the end of a first half that produced only seven goals in perfect conditions.
The Swans lifted the tempo in the third term and dominated the inside-50 count without taking full advantage on the scoreboard.
Sam Reid booted two goals for the quarter, but the Swans only had a three-point three-quarter time lead to show for all their momentum.
Essendon coach John Worsfold played his ace, sending Cale Hooker forward, but it was the Bombers’ midfielders who gained the upper hand in the last quarter, with Shaun McKernan’s second goal sparking the decisive scoring burst.
© AAP 2019
ESSENDON 2.3 4.5 7.5 11.10 (76)
SYDNEY 1.2 3.6 7.8 9.12 (66)
Goals: Essendon: D Zaharakis 3 J Stringer 2 S McKernan 2 A McDonald-Tipungwuti D Parish K Langford O Fantasia. Sydney: L Parker 2 S Reid 2 J Rose N Blakey T McCartin T Papley Z Jones.
Umpires: Jeff Dalgleish, Andrew Mitchell, Robert O’Gorman.
Official Crowd: 60,199 at MCG.