SYDNEY has 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 last round, burst out of the blocks then held firm through the North’s second-half surge to prevail 13.13 (91) to 12.5 (77) at Marvel Stadium.
KANGAROOS v SWANS Full match coverage and stats
But Sydney will be sweating on injuries to Nick Blakey, who was substituted out of the game with an ankle concern in the third quarter, and Josh Kennedy, who limped off clutching his hamstring in the final minute.
Despite resting superstar forward Lance Franklin, the Swans found plenty of options in attack, with Will Hayward kicking three goals and Tom Papley nailing two.
Luke Parker and Kennedy (25 disposals apiece) and George Hewett (28 touches) were typically industrious around the stoppages while Blakey also impressed.
North Melbourne young guns Luke Davies-Uniacke (24 disposals) and Jy Simpkin (22 touches) impressed, while the lively Cam Zuurhar booted three goals and Aaron Hall (30 disposals) was busy off half-back.
The Swans' pressure was ferocious early and they reaped the reward, booting five goals to North's two in the opening quarter - though Nick Larkey goaled after the siren to cut the quarter-time deficit to 18 points.
Sydney kept the heat on in the second term and led by 31 points at the main break, with Jaidyn Stephenson's late major North's only goal for the quarter.
The Kangaroos - who have consistently fought out games this year - came out of half-time with renewed intensity and controlled much of the third term, booting four goals to two.
Blakey hobbled off late in the third quarter after landing awkwardly from a marking contest and was substituted out for Colin O'Riordan.
At the start of the final term, North youngster Eddie Ford booted a set shot then added another from a free kick to cut the deficit to 10 points - before Jed Anderson drew the Kangaroos within a goal.
But David Noble's side were unable to haul themselves in front and Hayward kicked back-to-back steadying goals to give the Swans some breathing room.
North's Aiden Bonar came off the ground late after a heavy knock, while Kennedy limped off in the final minute.
Kangaroos debutant Charlie Comben kicked his first goal after the siren.
Will shows the way
Will Hayward started the season as the unused medical sub and then spent time in the VFL, but since forcing his way into the senior line up in round five he has played every match and kicked 28 goals. The 22-year-old gathered 17 disposals and 11 marks against the Kangaroos in his usual role floating around the forward 50 and pushing further up the field to help the Swans move the ball through the midfield, but was most important in the final term. After North Melbourne got within four points, Sydney controlled the ball but was unable to score until Hayward stepped up to kick two goals in two minutes and settle the nerves.
Top-heavy Roos lack run
North Melbourne looked top-heavy with Robbie Tarrant, Ben McKay and Josh Walker in the backline and Jack Ziebell also playing tall, especially as Sydney prefers to play with only two key forwards. The lack of suitable match-ups left the 197cm Walker spending much of the match chasing the 185cm Isaac Heeney, but it also meant the Kangaroos at times lacked the runners to move the ball swiftly out of defence. This was most obvious in the second term when the Swans locked the ball in their forward half and had 15-2 inside 50s as North relied on too many long bombs to clear the ball, but saw it regularly come straight back.
No Buddy, no worries
The Swans expected to rest Lance Franklin multiple times throughout the season, but he had played 13 consecutive matches until being managed against the Kangaroos. Just as he did four times earlier in the year, Hayden McLean stepped in for his superstar teammate and again proved he can be more than just an understudy for Buddy as he crashed packs, took four contested marks and kicked a goal. The Swans are now 4-1 without Franklin this season, and while he is expected to return next week, they have another key forward to call on if he needs more tall support.
NORTH MELBOURNE 2.2 3.3 7.4 12.5 (77)
SYDNEY 5.2 8.4 10.8 13.13 (91)
North Melbourne: Zurhaar 3, Larkey 2, Ford 2, Stephenson, Taylor, Anderson, Thomas, Comben
Sydney: Hayward 3, Papley 2, Heeney, Wicks, Campbell, Parker, McLean, Dawson, Gulden, Florent
North Melbourne: Simpkin, Anderson, Hall, Davies-Uniacke, Zurhaar, Phillips
Sydney: Parker, Hayward, Hewett, Rowbottom, Cunningham, Kennedy, Hickey
North Melbourne: Bonar (TBC)
Sydney: Blakey (ankle), Kennedy (hamstring)
North Melbourne: Young (unused)
Sydney: O’Riordan (replaced Blakey)