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The GWS Giants and Port Adelaide impressed with victories on Saturday night and Essendon and Sydney also enjoyed wins, as AFL players got used to plying their trade inside empty venues because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Undermanned Giants crush Cats
As the AFL continues its opening round amid the coronavirus pandemic, Toby Greene and Harry Perryman kicked four goals each to help GWS record a 32-point win over Geelong in round one.
Stephen Coniglio was also busy, booting two opening-half goals and finishing up with 19 disposals in his first match as skipper in the 17.3 (105) to 11.7 (73) triumph at a spectator-less Giants Stadium in Sydney.
Greene (16 possessions) spent some time on the ball and lifted in the premiership quarter to help his team bust the contest open, while intercept king Nick Haynes was typically busy for the Giants.
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Round one is far too early to make any bold predictions, let alone a competition that could soon be placed on hiatus and drag on long beyond September because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but there were plenty of promising signs from the expansion club.
At times it was easy to forget last year’s grand finalists were playing without injured stars Tim Taranto, Zac Williams and Callan Ward, let alone the fact they were a player down on the bench.
Mitch Duncan was sensational for the visitors and Gary Ablett had a match-high 24 possessions, but the Cats could not compete with the Giants’ goal kicking accuracy nor intensity across the four quarters.
The Giants’ quest for grand-final redemption got off to a cracking start when Daniel Lloyd slotted two goals in two minutes.
With seven minutes remaining in the opening term, the Giants had already opened up a 17-point lead by kicking more goals than they managed in the entire 2019 grand final.
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The Cats steadied with a sensational one-step effort from Patrick Dangerfield, who split the middle from the cusp of the 50-metre arc.
The Giants’ lead was trimmed to four points late in the first quarter then early in the second term, but that was as close as they came to hitting the front.
Power overwhelm Suns on Gold Coast
Port Adelaide’s Todd Marshall (left) and Scott Lycett conduct an alternative celebration. (AAP: Darren England)
Port Adelaide’s brigade of rising young talent proved too strong for Gold Coast’s new boys, as the visitors made a winning start to the 2020 season.
The Power led at every change in Carrara, surging to a 10.16 (76) to 4.5 (29) victory.
Connor Rozee, Todd Marshall and debutant Mitchell Georgiades all shone in the 47-point win, as Ken Hinkley’s team made the perfect start to a year in which the Power coach had warned the league that his club was going to be a contender.
Marshall kicked two goals, while Western Australian draftee Georgiades booted two including a first-quarter major after which he was mobbed by teammates.
Rozee, who ran the Suns’ half-back line ragged at times with his silky play, finished the match with 21 disposals and a goal.
There were also flashes of brilliance at times by 19-year-old Zak Butters.
Plenty of the Power’s older heads also performed well, including Travis Boak (25 disposals, four tackles), Brad Ebert (20 disposals, one goal) and Robbie Gray (18 disposals, six contested possessions).
Despite the win, the Power finished the match down on troops with Hamish Hartlett (quad) limping out of the match in the third quarter.
Sam Powell-Pepper (shoulder) and Brad Ebert (knee) also finished the match with injury concerns.
The loss is the Suns’ 19th-consecutive defeat, a streak stretching back to round four last year.
Bombers account for Dockers
Fremantle’s Matt Taberner is brought down in a tackle by Essendon’s Dylan Shiel. (AAP: Michael Dodge)
Essendon has fought off a stirring late charge by Fremantle to open its season with a six-point win in front of an empty stadium at Melbourne’s Docklands.
Dockers debutant Sam Sturt kicked two of his three goals to help the visitors slam through four majors in the final term, but the Bombers grimly hung on for a 9.9 (63) to 8.9 (57) win.
In Justin Longmuir’s first game as senior coach, Fremantle started poorly but finished strongly, with Andy Brayshaw missing a late shot on goal which would have made it a point the difference with just under two minutes left on the clock.
Former Richmond premiership player Jacob Townsend booted two goals in the opening quarter as Essendon jumped out to a 19-point lead at the first break.
John Worsfold’s men led by 26 points at half-time but managed just two goals in the second half to leave the door open for the visitors.
Dylan Shiel starred for the Bombers with 35 possessions and eight clearances, while Townsend finished with three goals.
Nat Fyfe led the way for Fremantle with 26 touches and Sturt tallied three majors in a promising debut.
The Dockers pressed hard but their challenge ended with the ball deep in their attacking 50.
The sight of Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson watching from a corporate box at Docklands raised questions on social media given the restrictions around attendance.
But with the Hawks taking on the Dockers in round two, the league clarified that clubs could nominate one scout to attend a match if one of next week’s opponents was playing.
Swans pip Crows in cliffhanger
The Swans held on in the final moments to edge out the Crows in Adelaide. (AAP: David Marauz)
Livewire Isaac Heeney has kicked four goals to spark Sydney to a tense three-point win against Adelaide.
Heeney and teammate Luke Parker were the stand-outs, as the Swans triumphed 11.8 (74) to 11.5 (71) at Adelaide Oval.
Parker collected a match-high 29 disposals, forming a commanding midfield with Oliver Florent (20 possessions) and stalwart Josh Kennedy (25 touches), while Will Hayward booted two majors.
Adelaide, in new coach Matthew Nicks’ first match at the helm, failed to fire after quarter-time before a last-gasp rally in captain Rory Sloane’s 200th AFL appearance.
Backmen Rory Laird (19 disposals), Daniel Talia and Wayne Milera were solid, and forwards Tom Lynch and Taylor Walker kicked two goals each for the Crows.
Adelaide booted six-straight goals, including two from Walker, to Sydney’s three and led by 18 points after a free-scoring opening quarter.
But the Swans controlled the second stanza to take the momentum, kicking four majors in an eight-minute purple patch to stun the home side.
The Swans led 8.3 to 7.1 at half-time with mobile attackers Heeney and Hayward kicking two goals apiece, and onballer Parker (16 disposals) the leading ball winner on the ground.
After the break, Heeney was again the central figure, slotting two more goals as the visitors crafted a 20-point advantage, before Adelaide second-gamer Ben Davis goaled to reduce the margin to 14 points at the last change.
The Swans resisted for 17 goalless minutes, before Adelaide’s Lynch snapped his second and teammate Chayce Jones slotted another minutes later.
The quick goals left the Crows four points down with 71 seconds remaining and ex-skipper Walker had the chance to pinch victory, but he missed a 55-metre set shot at goal with just 20 seconds to go.
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