Sydney and Hawthorn played off on Saturday evening with the winner set to emerge with the number one spot atop the AFL ladder. In the game of the year Hawthorn prevailed, edging out the Swans in Sydney by the slimmest of margins for a 102-95 win.
The match was played with the intensity of a grand final and the Hawks fought their way back from a huge second term deficit against the odds. Burgoyne was among the Hawks' best with three goals and 26 possessions while Sewell, Lewis and Hodge all played brilliantly. Buddy Franklin kicked four goals on return from a six week absence with a hamstring injury.
O’Keefe opened the scoring for Sydney in what was initially an ugly opening term. The game started off with all the atmosphere of a finals fight out, a real war of attrition, with very few clean possessions, but Sydney emerged from the scrap to control the quarter. An optimistic kick forward fell to Mumford and Reid and Jack added goals while Hawthorn could only manage a single behind.
It was the worst possible scenario for the Hawks when Reid marked and goaled from the opening clearance. They got one with an Issac Smith breakthrough, but McGlynn and Mumford appeared to put the game out of the visitor’s reach. But then remarkably the Hawks turned the game on its head.
In less than 10 minutes of game time they scored six straight to erase a 38-point deficit. It started with Franklin’s first, Burgoyne, Franklin and then Burgoyne again closed the gap before Suckling converted a ridiculous snap from the pocket with the outside of the boot. The run ended with Franklin kicking his third of the term and Hawthorn tying up a game that was completely in Sydney’s control. Malceski goaled with 30 seconds left to ease some of the pain, but the damage was already done.
Possession evened up in third yet neither side able to clearly break away from the other. Puopolo registered the first goal and put the Hawks in front for the first time. Shiel followed it up with another before Lewis Robert-Thompson and Goodes put the Swans back in front with five minutes remaining. A late Gunston snap gave the Hawks a 71-67 three-quarter time lead.
Goodes put Sydney back in front with the first of the final term until an interesting free kick gave Puopolo the easiest of set shots in front of goal to retie the game. Kennedy kicked an important goal with seven minutes remaining, but Franklin had an immediate response a minute later. When O’Keefe managed a goal during a desperate stretch it looked like Sydney had it with two minutes left on the clock, but with the ensuing clearance Mitchell dropped it inside 50 for Burgoyne who gave the visitors a one-point lead and Sewell broke from the middle to kick the sealer with less than a minute remaining.
Josh Kennedy was excellent for the Swans with 25 possessions while Ryan O’Keefe was also solid.