Sydney have stamped themselves as legitimate AFL contenders after ending ladder leader North Melbourne’s unbeaten run with a 26-point win over the Kangaroos at the SCG.
The youthful Sydney outfit never trailed and moved up to second with a 14.7 (91) to 9.11 (65) victory on Friday night.
North rallied from a 31-point first-quarter deficit to get within nine at halftime.
But the midfield triumvirate of inaugural Goodes-O’Loughlin medal winner Tom Mitchell (41 touches) Josh Kennedy (35) and Dan Hannebery (34) dominated the inside exchanges for most of the game.
North struggled up forward, with Jarrad Waite, Drew Petrie and Brent Harvey all going goalless.
Lance Franklin kicked three for Sydney to move up to equal 14th on the VFL-AFL goal-kicking list on 746, alongside former Swan, Saint and Bulldog Barry Hall.
Lindsay Thomas kept the Kangaroos in the game early, kicking their first three goals, but didn’t add to his tally in the second half and was their only multiple goal scorer.
Five straight goals gave Sydney the early ascendancy, but the Kangaroos lifted in the second quarter, with Ben Cunnington (32 possessions) in the forefront.
But the visitors couldn’t sustain the effort, with Sydney kicking four goals to one in the third quarter.
North couldn’t get the deficit below 19 in the final quarter, and Sydney finished ahead 169-144 in the contested possession count.
Sydney coach John Longmire said he was really happy with the pressure his players applied.
“We dropped a bit in the second quarter, didn’t have as many tackles and as much pressure on the opposition,” Longmire said.
“They were always going to have a turn.
“But we were pleased that we got it going again in the third and finished off really strongly.”
North Melbourne coach Brad Scott acknowledged his side came off second best in the contest area, but praised Sydney rather than criticise his side.
“We got beaten around the contest, they got their hands on the ball first,” Scott said.
“They transitioned really well and we gave away two sloppy high-tackle free kicks.
“They converted them and put us on the back foot early.
“We didn’t play our best, but that wasn’t the reason we lost, the Swans played well.”
Neither side reported any injuries.