Sydney coach John Longmire. Picture: Joshua Davis/The Inner Sanctum

Sydney coach John Longmire. Picture: Joshua Davis/The Inner Sanctum

After a dour opening half, Sydney kicked away late to record a 22-point victory over an underwhelming Melbourne at the SCG. 

Both teams were uncharacteristically scrappy in the opening term, with poor skills and persistent turnovers marring the early stages of the contest. 

Ollie Florent created some excitement in an otherwise dour first quarter, kicking a brilliant running banana goal from 50 metres out for Sydney’s first. 

Melbourne was able to gain the ascendancy shortly after, with repeat inside 50 entries leading to an opportunistic Jack Viney major. 

Led by Viney, Petracca, and Oliver in the midfield, the Demons dominated contested ball early against a Swans outfit missing Parker and Adams. 

However, inaccuracy prevented them from opening up a potentially imposing lead, kicking 1.6 for the quarter. 

Nick Blakey’s extraordinary evasiveness and athleticism was on show early, running past several Demons defenders to set up a mid-range set shot goal from Isaac Heeney. 

The Swans led by nine at quarter time, courtesy of a Papley dribbler from just outside the 50 metre arc. 

The defensive scrap continued in the second term as neither side made inroads on the scoreboard.

Melbourne continued to win the territory and inside 50 battle but failed to capitalise on their dominance. 

Justin Mcinerney kicked the Swans only goal of the quarter, while Alex Neal-Bullen tried to ignite the Dees with an excellent snap from a stoppage that was later adjudicated a behind. 

The lack of cohesion between Melbourne’s midfielders and forwards was a jarring sight, as Sydney regularly threw an extra defender back to halt the Dees ineffective and shallow forward thrusts. 

Debutant Caleb Windsor started season 2024 in style, delivering the ball lace out to Ed Langdon who converted the Dees second goal on the half time siren. 

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The Demons made an early substitution, replacing the ineffectual Bailey Laurie with former St Kilda utility Jack Billings. 

Bailey Fritsch sprung to life after a quiet first half, kicking three in quick succession as Melbourne regained the lead. 

Jake Bowey suffered what appeared to be a nasty shoulder injury in a contest with Sydney’s Justin Mcinerney, exiting the ground with the assistance of trainers. 

Minutes later, Hayden Mclean gathered a loose ball close to goal and duly converted to put the Swans back in front. 

Mclean was potent for the Swans after a quiet first half, kicking two goals for the quarter and could’ve had several more if not for a few uncharacteristically easy misses. 

Both teams began to show signs of fatigue, and the match soon turned into an old-fashioned shootout. 

Jack Viney was dominant around the ball for Melbourne, kicking a goal from 50 out and amassing possessions with ease. 

The Swans were wasteful, kicking 3.7 to the Demons 5.1. 

When Christian Petracca showcased his strength to kick a centre bounce stoppage goal late in the quarter, the Swans held just a two point lead, and the stage was set for a grandstand finish. 

After a few years rotating between the centre and half-forward, Chad Warner did his best to stake a claim for a permanent midfield spot with an excellent long range goal from 50 out. 

The triumvirate of Warner, Rowbottom, and Heeney were standouts in the early stages of the last quarter as the Swans opened up a 30 point lead. 

The long-awaited Gawn/Grundy matchup delivered the goods, with Gawn slightly better in the ruck contests and Grundy more impressive around the ground. 

A fortuitous major to Jacob Van Rooyen, who dribbled it through off his shin, was one of just a few Melbourne highlights in a fourth quarter dominated by the Swans. 

Sydney continue their season against Collingwood on Friday March 15, while Melbourne will take on the Western Bulldogs on Sunday March 17.

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