Sydney have beaten a fast-finishing North Melbourne by 14 points, ensuring the Kangaroos will receive their first wooden spoon since 1972.
The Swans, keen to respond after their surprise loss to St Kilda, burst out of the blocks, then held firm through the Kangaroos’ second-half surge to prevail 13.13 (91) to 12.5 (77) at Marvel Stadium on Saturday.
“We were able, when we were challenged, to kick away again,” Sydney coach John Longmire said.
“That was a really good sign, the ability to be able to steady, absorb it – they were coming hard – and then kick away again with the intensity up and going.”
But the sixth-placed Swans will sweat on the fitness of Nick Blakey, who was forced out of the game with an ankle injury in the third quarter and Josh Kennedy, who limped off clutching his hamstring in the final minute.
North Melbourne coach David Noble was pleased with how his charges found a way back into the game, having shown video clips around their contest work at halftime.
But he stressed he didn’t consider the result an “honourable loss” and wouldn’t be drawn on their now-guaranteed last-place finish.
“I’ve got no interest in talking about the wooden spoon. It’s what it is,” Noble said.
“We’re working on continuing to improve. That’s where we sit, which is not ideal.
“We’ve certainly been chasing really hard to improve and get up the ladder, so that’s been our focus and we certainly haven’t had any internal discussions around that.
“So we’ll just continue to move on.”
Despite resting Lance Franklin, Sydney found plenty of options in attack, with Will Hayward kicking three goals, while Luke Parker, Josh Kennedy and George Hewett were typically industrious around the stoppages.
North Melbourne midfield duo Luke Davies-Uniacke (24 disposals) and Jy Simpkin (22 touches) impressed while the lively Cam Zuurhar booted three goals.
Sydney’s pressure was ferocious early and they reaped the rewards, leading by 18 points at quarter-time, then 31 at the main break.
The Kangaroos, who have consistently fought out games this year, came out of halftime with renewed intensity and controlled the third term, booting four goals to two.
Blakey was replaced by Colin O’Riordan late in the term after landing awkwardly from a marking contest.
At the start of the final term, North youngster Eddie Ford booted back-to-back majors to cut the deficit to 10 points, before Jed Anderson drew the Kangaroos within four points.
But they were unable to haul themselves in front and Hayward kicked back-to-back steadying goals to give Sydney some breathing room.
North’s Aiden Bonar came off the ground late after a heavy knock, but later passed a concussion test, while debutant Charlie Comben provided a late highlight when he kicked his first goal after the siren.