Isaac Heeney wrestles with Nick Hind during the round two match between Sydney and Essendon at the SCG, March 23, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

ESSENDON brought its edge and threw the first punches but, in the end, it was Sydney that flexed its muscle with a 30-point victory in a fiery clash at the SCG.

The Swans were two goals and a man down within the opening few minutes, but slowly reeled in the Bombers then ran away late for a 19.17 (131) to 15.11 (101) triumph on Saturday night.

SWANS v BOMBERS Full match coverage and stats

Peter Wright sparked the fireworks early when taking out Harry Cunningham in a collision that will come under the scrutiny of the MRO.


The Bombers' spearhead made high contact with Cunningham after bracing to protect himself rather than raising his arms to compete for the ball in a marking contest on the wing.

The Swans' defender was left motionless for several minutes and finally taken from the field on a stretcher before being subbed out of the match in the first term.


Spot fires continued to break out across the first half, with combative rucks Brodie Grundy and Sam Draper each giving away an unnecessary free kick that led to an opposition goal in the second term.

The Swans eventually settled, and with their turnover and transition game in full flow, were able to wear down the Bombers before piling on late goals to stretch the margin.

Forward-turned-midfielder Isaac Heeney continued his scintillating start to the season with 32 disposals, eight clearances and a goal.

Tom Papley rose to the occasion of the heated clash with four goals as well as 24 disposals, while Chad Warner (28 touches, two goals) and Errol Gulden (24, two) were sublime in the midfield.


Sydney had more options and variety inside 50, as key forwards Joel Amartey (two goals), Hayden McLean (two) and Logan McDonald (one) stretched Essendon’s undermanned defence.

Zach Merrett was crucial for the Bombers throughout with 32 disposals and helped them stay in the contest with two final-term goals, while Jake Stringer (three goals) also hit the scoreboard late and Jade Gresham (three) showed his class.


Wright, the villain of the night, brushed aside the boos from the SCG faithful to finish with two goals.

It was a Bombers blitz from the opening bounce as Merrett set up two goals in the opening three minutes with precision kicking inside 50.

The Essendon skipper received the first hit-out of the match from Draper and quickly found Jade Gresham, while Merrett’s next touch picked out Nik Cox closer to goal to seal the fast start.


Wright collected Cunningham a minute later but once play resumed the Bombers had soon kicked four of the first five goals.

The Swans got the game back on their own terms with blistering ball movement and booted the next three majors to snatch the lead at the first change.

It was a see-sawing contest from there with the lead changing six times until the Swans pulled away late to extend their red-hot start to the season with a third straight victory.


Wright tips over Essendon edge
Peter Wright faces a nervous wait for the MRO to look closely at his collision with Harry Cunningham that left the Swans defender needing to be taken from the field on a stretcher. Cunningham was tracking back to intercept a clearing kick from the Essendon defence when Wright came crashing through without raising his arms in an attempt to mark or spoil the ball. The Swans veteran was motionless for several minutes as a melee broke out further away, but was able to walk to the stretcher cart himself and later watched on from the bench after being replaced by substitute Corey Warner. Bombers coach Brad Scott spoke about an "Essendon edge" earlier in the week, but will need to check how far he wants his side to push it if Wright is the second Bomber in as many weeks to be suspended.


Traditional nailbiter turns spiteful
Sydney and Essendon have built a tense rivalry with some weird and wonderful moments as well as a long stretch of close encounters. While Sydney pulled away in the final term, the evenly-matched pair have still had seven of their past nine games decided by 10 points or less, while few have been as spiteful as their latest clash. Luke Parker lit a spark by taunting Dylan Shiel when the teams met two years ago, but with the two midfielders missing it was left to big men Peter Wright, Sam Draper and Brodie Grundy to be among those to fan the flames this time. The countdown should be on now for the return bout in round 23.

Swans and Bombers players scuffle during the round two match between Sydney and Essendon at the SCG, on March 23, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Amartey pulls out the party tricks
The Swans found most of their goals through turnovers and transitions, but Joel Amartey pulled out his own tricks with an outrageous backheel on the edge of the goal line. Following a marking contest close to goal, Sydney kept surging the ball forward until Justin McInerney attempted to soccer it through from just inside the goalsquare. The midfielder scuffed the kick to allow a pair of Bombers defenders to close in on the bouncing ball, but Amartey pounced to get there first and shaped his foot to somehow tap the ball through for a goal.


SYDNEY                       4.4       8.9       13.13    19.17 (131)
ESSENDON                 4.1       8.5       10.8      15.11 (101)

Sydney: Papley 4, Hayward 3, Amartey 2, Gulden 2, McLean 2, Warner 2, Blakey, Heeney, Jordon, McDonald, 
Essendon: Gresham 3, Stringer 3, Langford 2, Merrett 2, Wright 2, Cox, Draper, Goldstein, 

Sydney: Papley, Heeney, Gulden, Warner, Florent, Grundy, Blakey
Essendon: Merrett, Setterfield, Martin, Gresham, Caldwell, Durham 

Sydney: Cunningham (head knock)
Essendon: Nil

Sydney: Nil
Essendon: Jake Kelly (illness) replaced in selected side by Alwyn Davey jnr 

Sydney: Corey Warner (replaced Harry Cunningham in the first quarter)
Essendon: Alwyn Davey jnr (replaced Sam Draper in the fourth quarter)

Crowd: 34,954 at the SCG