No Buddy, not much from Kurt Tippett and Sam Reid, but evergreen Adam Goodes helped AFL ladder-leaders Sydney to a gritty 22-point win over Essendon at the SCG on Friday night.
Leading goalkicker Lance Franklin withdrew before the game with knee soreness and while Sydney missed his flashes of brilliance, they scrapped their way to a 11.13 (79) to 8.9 (57) win.
The Bombers slashed a 28-point half-time deficit to 10 in the third quarter and continued snapping at Sydney’s heels in the last, but never got the margin down to single figures.
They paid the price for a slow start, trailing 20-1 early and by 26 at the first change.
The Swans proved they didn’t need a big contribution from their celebrated four-pronged strikeforce of tall forwards, with the other three members apart from Franklin combining for just four goals.
Sydney’s other main forward target Tippett booted just two goals – both from free kicks – as he was well held by Cale Hooker.
Reid, who spent time off the ground with what appeared to be hip issue, notched a single goal and nine disposals.
Goodes collected 18 touches, a game-high ten marks and kicked 2.1, sealing the win with a final-quarter goal.
With not many forward line pyrotechnics, Sydney prevailed through strong defensive pressure and midfield industry in a workmanlike effort after their 12-game winning streak was snapped by Hawthorn last week.
Luke Parker (35 possessions) and Josh Kennedy (28) were among their hardest and most influential workers.
The Swans kicked the first three goals of the game and while Essendon had a good patch in the middle of the opening quarter, they didn’t make it count on the scoreboard.
Sydney controlled most of the second quarter but only expanded their lead by two after kicking 2.5 to 2.3.
The Bombers came out full of run after halftime and cut the deficit to 10, as Paddy Ryder and Ben Howlett converted set shots from around 50 metres and Jake Carlisle goaled from close range.
Sydney responded with goals to Tippett and Ben McGlynn stretching their buffer to 20 by the final break.
Dyson Heppell kicked the first goal of the last term, but Sydney outscored the visitors by two points for the term.
Michael Hurley played with plenty of authority down back and logged a team-leading 29 touches for Essendon, with Heppell tallying 25.
Franklin’s place was taken by 20-year-old debutant Tim Membrey, who found himself marked by Dustin Fletcher, playing his 393rd game.
Membrey, who hadn’t even been born when 39-year-old Fletcher made his debut back in 1993, was substituted by Jake Lloyd at the last change after tallying nine touches and four marks.