Sydney have held their nerve to edge out a dogged Hawthorn by four points in a thrilling rematch of last year’s AFL grand final.
After seeing their 27-point quarter-time margin erased, Sydney recovered their own final-term deficit to win 11.7 (73) to 9.15 (69).
In a hard-fought match, the Hawks looked set to steal victory, carrying the momentum into the final term.
The Hawks were powered by Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis in midfield and energised by Cyril Rioli, whose electric presence in the forward line turned the match.
Rioli’s second goal put the Hawks 12 points ahead midway through the final term.
But the Swans’ leaders stood up, with captain Jarrad McVeigh booting two goals in five minutes to arrest their slide.
McVeigh then found Luke Parker loose inside the Swans forward line, winning the game for Sydney at the last.
Hawthorn had two chances to snatch victory but lost their composure both times.
Sharpshooter Luke Breust missed a regulation set shot inside the final two minutes, while Rioli was unable to gather a tap down with 30 seconds on the clock.
Sydney’s Dan Hannebery and Parker played strong hands, with Sam Reid their best forward.
As if to make up for their poor grand final showing, the Swans burst out of the blocks.
Animosity between the two teams was evident from the first term.
Each bump was made with feeling, each tackle with clenched teeth.
Free kicks came with afters, but only the Swans found an early route to goal.
Five minutes into the second term, former Hawk Ben McGlynn’s goal put Sydney 32 points ahead, with Hawthorn still goalless.
Not in six seasons had Hawthorn waited so long for a goal, and when it finally arrived through Luke Breust, more followed.
Rioli played a star hand as Hawthorn kicked four in ten minutes.
The ferocious energy that earned the Hawks the 2014 flag had returned, with only inaccuracy stopping them from claiming a half-time lead.
Paul Puopolo’s gut-busting run set up Ryan Schoenmakers to tie up the scores mid-way through the third quarter.
But the Swans’ late show saved their blushes and kept them third on the AFL ladder with a 6-2 record.
Hawthorn, in contrast, slumped to 4-4 and need improvement if they are to defend their premiership in 2015.