Sydney have picked up the first AFL premiership points on foreign soil with a hard-fought win over a valiant St Kilda in Wellington, which has left the Saints’ season in a bleak state.
A festive crowd of 22,546 at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium watched the Swans weather a spirited early Saints assault then a late charge to win 11.13 (79) to 9.9 (63) and claim the newly-cast Simpson-Henderson Trophy.
Dan Hannebery (30 disposals) won the Anzac Medal as the player best exemplifying the Anzac spirit, with fellow midfielders Josh Kennedy, Jarrad McVeigh and Luke Parker also strong contributors throughout, as the Swans climbed to a 4-1 record.
The Saints, who fell to a 1-4 record and face another tough battle against Collingwood at Etihad Stadium next Friday night, started and ended the match impressively.
They kicked 2.1 to nothing in the first nine minutes, with Lenny Hayes (28 disposals, 11 clearances) on fire in the middle, Justin Koschitzke kicking the game’s first goal in his first match of the season, and skipper Nick Riewoldt (13 marks, two goals) working hard and winning plenty of the ball.
The Swans didn’t even enter their attack until the nine-minute mark, when a St Kilda interchange infringement gifted Josh Kennedy a free kick and 50m penalty, from which he goaled.
But they hit the front 25 minutes in when defender Ted Richards, Riewoldt’s opponent, kicked a rare goal.
The Saints briefly regained the lead when Riewoldt marked and goaled early in the second quarter.
But the Swans’ pressure began to tell as they kicked seven of the next 10 goals, with their majors coming much more easily than the Saints’.
Parker ended the third quarter with a clever snapped major and started the last term with another to put the Swans 29 points up and seemingly home.
But the Saints breathed some late life into the match when Jarryn Geary responded with a long-range goal, set up by Riewoldt, then a brilliant Jack Steven snap from a tight angle which narrowed the margin to 16 points at the 10-minute mark.
Leigh Montagna, who performed impressively, built the tension further 10 minutes later, kicking beautifully from a tight angle after being set up by a Hayes handball.
But a free kick to Shane Mumford for an infringement in the ruck 20m out set up the big Swans ruckman for a straightforward goal, the last score of the match, to kill off the Saints’ charge.