ESSENDON’S old nemesis Lance Franklin had the final and decisive say as Sydney continued its unbeaten start to the season in eclipsing the Bombers at the SCG.

With Sydney clinging to a four-point lead late in the game, Franklin took a mark and converted the set shot to record his third major of the night, the 950th of his career and his 73rd against Essendon, the most he has kicked against any club.

Essendon fought to the end, Sydney defender Dane Rampe making a desperate fingertip effort to prevent a goal, and Cale Hooker did boot a major, but time ran out for the visitors as they went down by three points.

It was the fifth time in their past seven contests the game had been settled by 10 points or less, Sydney winning 11.17 (83) to 12.8 (80).

The Swans have captivated the AFL community with their free-flowing style, scoring over 100 points in each of their first three wins, but on Thursday night they proved they can win ugly and come from behind.

The Bombers kicked six straight goals either side of quarter-time to lead by 25 points.

Jake Stringer kicked a couple of early goals and Darcy Parish was also prominent in the Bombers’ surge.

During that period, the Bombers’ increased intensity prevented the Swans playing the swift incisive football which was a hallmark of their first three games.

Sydney rallied to kick the last five goals of the half to lead by five points at the long break.

It wasn’t until the Swans’ final major of the half that they produced the dazzling end-to-end flow they have become renowned for.

Sam Reid’s second goal expanded Sydney ‘s lead to 11 points, but both sides kicked three majors in the term, which ended with Essendon ahead by a point.

Essendon’s Alec Waterman landed a set shot from just inside 50m for the first goal of the last quarter but Justin McInerney replied in kind to level the score.

SWANS v BOMBERS Full match coverage and stats

Sydney then took control but missed multiple opportunities, logging four straight behinds, including a poster from Tom Papley, before Franklin kicked the clincher.

The Swans dominated clearances and had 31 more contested possessions, with Luke Parker collecting 32 touches.

Sydney suffered a blow in the second quarter when Isaac Heeney was forced off the ground with a broken hand and replaced by James Bell, Sydney’s first medical substitute of the season.

Heeney had looked in good form before his setback, grabbing six marks.

Close encounters of the fourth kind
These two sides have built an incredible tradition of close encounters, and this was their fourth game in a row to finish within 10 points. Essendon won their only meeting last year by six points, thanks in part to a late goal by Darcy Parish. The Bombers got up by 10 points in round 16 of 2019, while the Swans won earlier in the year by five points when David Myers’ shot after the siren fell short. Start counting down to round 20, when they meet again at Marvel Stadium.

Parish’s miraculous miskick
Defenders turned full-time onballers Darcy Parish and Callum Mills enjoyed an intriguing and ultimately even battle in the middle of the ground. Parish finished on 25 touches with 12 contested, while Mills had 25 disposals with nine contested. Both kicked a goal too, but Parish is more likely to see his barely believable goal – or perhaps it was a fortunate miskick – on the highlights. The 23-year-old picked up a loose ball 35m from goal and hard up on the boundary line, appeared to be looking to the top of the goalsquare to centre the ball but instead watched as his drop punt sailed through for six points. Parish looked as surprised as anyone as he celebrated with his teammates.

Injury-free run broken
Sydney has mostly enjoyed a blessed run with injuries this season, and hadn’t been forced into using its medical substitute before the clash with Essendon. But that all changed when Isaac Heeney broke his right hand early in the second quarter. The 24-year-old had started the game well, looking dangerous across half-forward as he picked up seven touches and six marks, but it looked ominous when he came off nursing a sore hand and went straight down to the Swans’ rooms. James Bell was immediately told to start warming up and was subbed on soon after.

SYDNEY          2.5     7.9     9.11     11.17     (83)
ESSENDON     4.1     7.4     10.6     12.8     (80)

Sydney: Franklin 3, Reid 2, McInerney 2, Parker, Florent, Mills, Papley
Essendon: Stringer 3, Hooker 3, Waterman 2, Cox, Smith, Parish, Jones

Sydney: Parker, Warner, Lloyd, Mills, Gulden, Kennedy
Essendon: Merrett, Ridley, Stringer, Parish, Cox

Sydney: Heeney (right hand)
Essendon: Nil

Sydney: James Bell (replaced Isaac Heeney)
Essendon: David Zaharakis (unused)

Crowd: 28,039 at the SCG