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What a game! Giants prevail in epic as Sydney's massive comeback falls just short

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28th August, 2021
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An extraordinary second-half comeback from the Sydney Swans has fallen agonisingly short, with a run of six straight behinds to close the game allowing Greater Western Sydney to prevail by a point.

Isaac Heeney kicked Sydney’s last four goals of the game as they looked certain to erase a 29-point second-half deficit and escape Launceston with a win. But their kicking boots deserted them as Tom Hickey, James Bell and Lance Franklin all missed late set shots – Bell’s particularly gettable – to see the comeback fall short by the slimmest of margins.

As has become the norm with these sides, there was some physicality before the bounce.

Tom Papley got the first of the game after taking a super mark back with the flight in the centre square, before being the recipient of a 50m penalty after two Giants ran through the protected area. He nailed the set shot and got stuck into a few opponents afterwards, earning him a talking-to from umpire Matt Stevic.

The Giants had a good chance to level the scores soon after, but Toby Greene’s kick to an unmarked Jesse Hogan had too much sauce on it and sailed through for a point.

He was able to atone soon after, however, after collecting a soccer forward off the deck and, unsurprisingly, outrunning ruckman Tom Hickey to dribble it through from the goal square.

The Swans had the lion’s share of the early inside 50s, but were running into heavy resistance from Jake Stein and were struggling to make an impact.

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Meanwhile, the Giants looked much more threatening on their forays forward and had their second through Toby Greene at the quarter’s halfway mark.

Sydney finally broke through for their second after some excellent transition up the ground sparked by Lance Franklin, with the ball eventually ending up in the arms of a free James Bell on the goal line.

They were starting to slowly exert some control of the game, with Franklin getting on the board off a sublime dummy and checkside snap with five minutes remaining.

But the Giants were able to strike back late after a speculative snap across the body from Tim Taranto found its way home – against the run of play.

Buddy got the first of the second quarter with an excellent tight-angled kick off the ground, but from there, the Giants took full control.

Blistering coast-to-coast ball movement was capped off by a stellar Zach Sproule set shot to start the run, before patient ball movement saw them take the lead soon after, with Greene slotting goal number three with a great snap on the run.

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The Giants got their third in a row from just their third inside 50 after Harry Himmelberg got free from a forward stoppage and dribbled through an easy one. A decisive win from the next centre clearance sent it deep, with Daniel Lloyd’s midair kick making it four goals from four entries.

Alarm bells would have to have been ringing in the Sydney coaching box from there, and they would’ve rang louder after Jesse Hogan’s beautiful set shot from close to the boundary put the ‘visitors’ out by 24.

The Swans were able to stem the flow from there, before finally pegging one back when a trademark set shot from outside 50 gave Franklin his third.

But a defensive lapse late in the quarter allowed Himmelberg to take an easy mark at full forward and convert the set shot after the siren to make it 23 points at the main break.

On the Fox Footy coverage, David King sung the praises of the Giants defence and credited them with helping the Giants to their big lead despite conceding the bulk of the inside 50s.

“I didn’t think they could hold up like this … I thought the damn well would break eventually. Full credit to [Sam] Taylor and these guys down back who have been able to absorb the punishment.”

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On the other hand, King was concerned with how the Swans were approaching the matchup on Greene.

“The matchup with [Dane] Rampe has been an interesting one – why he would hand over at a forward stoppage has got me beaten,” he said.

“If you’re gonna go with Rampe, go all the way. Cut the cord with all the handing over. It was [Chad] Warner at the forward stoppage, it was [Jake] Lloyd then [on Greene’s second goal], just leave Rampe on him and get the job done.”

The second half began perfectly for GWS, with a kick off the wing ending up in the arms of Zach Sproule just outside 50 and his set shot clearing the line to make it 29 points.

Papley was able to respond with an excellent set shot of his own to keep the Swans in it.

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Hogan had two more set shots to put the Giants further away, but he managed to hit the same post twice.

Sydney managed to get themselves back on top in general play, however, and two goals to Isaac Heeney – the second from an incredible set shot – had the margin back to just over two goals.

But Hogan was able to take a great pack mark and finish with another goal after the siren to give the Giants more breathing room at the final break.

Sydney got the all-important first goal of the final quarter with a point blank kick from the crumbs of a contest – his third consecutive goal of the game.

The superstar made it four soon after with a great one-on-one grab being followed up by another great set shot.

Unfortunately, for them, that was as close as they’d get.

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Full time

Sydney Swans – 10.13 (73)
GWS Giants – 11.8 (74)

Goals

Swans: Heeney 4, Franklin 3, Papley 2, Bell
Giants: Greene 3, Himmelberg 2, Sproule 2, Hogan 2, Taranto, Lloyd

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