Sydney withstands St Kilda charge as Saints fall from finals
Four-goal hero Ryan O’Keefe inspired Sydney to a hard-fought 25-point victory over St Kilda in their AFL elimination final at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night.
The rivals have had more than their fair share of low-scoring arm wrestles over the past decade and this match was no exception.
Sydney led by as many as 32 points early in the third term, only for St Kilda to kick four goals on the trot to get the margin down to eight at the last change.
But their chance of snatching an unlikely victory probably ended with a bad miss by Stephen Milne early in the last quarter.
Fittingly, it was best afield O’Keefe who kicked the sealer at the 18-minute mark with a 55m bomb.
That opened the floodgates, the Swans getting late goals from Ben McGlynn and Shane Mumford as they won 12.10 (82) to 8.9 (57) before a crowd of 39,205.
Sydney advanced to a semi-final against Hawthorn at the MCG on Friday night, although they have injury concerns over young guns Dan Hannebery (shoulder) and Gary Rohan (knee).
For the Saints, it was a sad end to a drama-packed season.
Justin Koschitzke was a solid performer on the night, but he will rue an interchange infringement just before halftime that gifted a goal to O’Keefe.
Along with O’Keefe, co-captain Adam Goodes was another of Sydney’s best.
He set up their first goal for Mumford, kicked the second to give them a lead they never relinquished and continued to set a high standard throughout the evening.
Sydney were also well-served by midfielders Josh Kennedy and Jarrad McVeigh, while Ted Richards had the best of his pivotal duel with Saints skipper Nick Riewoldt.
But the best of the lot was O’Keefe, who amassed 21 possessions, six tackles and five inside 50s to go with his game-high four goals.
The Saints’ best performers included Leigh Montagna, Nick Dal Santo, Zac Dawson and Ben McEvoy, who toiled hard all night in the ruck against Mumford.
Goodes and Jude Bolton were both playing in their 19th final, setting a new club record for Sydney.© AAP 2014