Swans cling on against Cats to seal thrilling comeback

A late snap from Tom Papley has helped an undermanned Sydney claim yet another high-profile scalp, sealing a miraculous two-point comeback win over Geelong on Saturday night.

Reeling after back-to-back defeats to GWS Giants and Gold Coast – and with key players Dane Rampe, Lance Franklin and Sam Reid all sidelined – the Swans were rank outsiders on Saturday night, while the Cats were coming off an awe-inspiring demolition of the West Coast Eagles.

Tom Papley’s late angled strike sealed the four points and sparked passionate celebrations in the stands and on the field.Credit:Getty

At quarter-time, a blowout appeared to be on the cards as Geelong romped to a five-goal lead after bossing the Swans in every aspect of the game.

But after a well-deserved bake from coach John Longmire, they turned the tables and laid the platform for a last-gasp victory that will live long in the memory of the 29,123 fans at the SCG.

The Swans kicked 5.1 to 1.3 in the second term to whittle the margin down to one straight kick at half-time, and from there it was a glorious arm-wrestle, with the lead changing hands seven times across the third and fourth quarters.

A toe-poke on the line from Luke Dalhaus deep into the final term put Geelong ahead by 10 points, and having kept the ball locked in their own attacking 50 for much of it, their superior experience seemed likely to get them home from there.

But the Swans replied instantly through a brilliant set shot from James Rowbottom and then, with less than two minutes left on the clock, Papley’s angled strike which sealed the four points and sparked passionate celebrations in the stands and on the field.

Geelong will regret a host of spurned chances at the death, with Tom Hawkins missing two attempts on goal that could have made their lead unassailable, while the veteran forward also dropped an easy chest mark within range.

For the Swans, the 14.6 (90) to 12.16 (88) result improves their record to 5-2 and proves again that they can mix it with the AFL’s very best, having now beaten both of last year’s grand final sides.

There were contributors all over the park, with Hayden McLean – who usually plays the unfashionable role of Lance Franklin’s understudy, coming into the side whenever he is either injured or rested – enjoying a breakout performance.

McLean booted four goals and hauled in two memorable contested marks in the second half, while ruckman Tom Hickey, who returned from what medicos said was a two-month knee injury after just one week, was hugely influential.

Jeremy Cameron kicked three goals for Geelong in his second game for the club but controversially, he was not awarded a mark in the dying seconds despite the kick he brought in, right next to the point post, appearing to travel past the required 15 metres. It would have given him an after-the-siren kick to win the game but it sounded seconds later, and the former GWS Giants star was stunned that the umpires didn’t credit him the mark.

The Swans jumped out of the gates, kicking the opening goal through Papley, and seemed to have brought the pressure around the contest that had been missing for the last fortnight.

Then it dropped away. Geelong utterly dominated the remainder of the first term, piling on six of the next seven goals – the last two through Cameron, extending their lead to 28 points. The way both teams were playing, it felt almost unassailable.

The quarter-time stats were alarming for the Swans: down 64 for possessions, 29 for marks and 13 for inside 50s. The Cats had it on a string and were moving it around with ease – but they didn’t see the swarm from the Swans coming.

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