Bombers survive AFL cliffhanger with Swans

Callum Godde
Shaun McKernan (r) booted three goals for Essendon in the win over the Swans in Sydney

Essendon have edged out Sydney by six points, with young gun Darcy Parish writing another chapter in their recent history of AFL thrillers.

In a match lacking polish and precision, the Bombers kept their nose just in front to hang on for a 12.7 (79) to 11.7 (73) victory at the SCG on Sunday.

Key forward Shaun McKernan, who missed Essendon's round-one win through illness, booted an equal game-high three goals including a long-range effort in the frantic final quarter.

The Swans closed within a point through red-time majors to small forwards Lewis Taylor (three goals) and Tom Papley (three).

But 22-year-old midfielder Parish (17 possessions) proved the hero, nailing a set shot as the Bombers clung on for a six-point win.

His clutch goal from just inside the boundary was the latest exclamation mark in the series of cliffhangers between Essendon and Sydney over the past decade.

The Swans have found themselves on the right end of most, from Dane Rampe's post-climbing antics in their five-point win in 2019 to Gary Rohan's match-winning goal after the siren in 2017.

But Parish flipped the script on Sunday to guide Essendon to a 2-0 start for the first time since 2009.

Bombers coach John Worsfold expected nothing less from Sydney, having experienced many nervy finishes against them during his time at the helm of West Coast.

"I must have brought it with me from my previous coaching days," he said.

"I can't remember having any big margins with Sydney.

"It was tight but we were really confident the players knew how to execute."

Essendon were faster out of the blocks despite sharing an early flight from Tullamarine with rivals North Melbourne.

Showing no lingering signs of an ankle concern, livewire Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti and Jake Stringer opened the first quarter with two goals apiece.

Young Swan talls Nick Blakey and Tom McCartin hit back but the Bombers regathered their three-goal buffer at the first break via a sublime Devon Smith snap.

After trading goals to start the second quarter, tempers erupted in the middle with Papley and Adam Saad at the centre of an all-in wrestling match.

In the blink of an eye, the Swans closed the first half with two majors in as many minutes through Isaac Heeney and Papley.

Sydney were warming into the contest and so was a previously ice-cold McKernan, who bobbed up to boot two quick goals of his own to open the third term.

It was all set up for an enthralling final quarter but both sides played each other to a stalemate until McKernan nabbed a goal after an errant chip from Taylor.

Taylor and Papley goals made it close at the death, but Parish found a finish beyond his years to ensure a boisterous Bombers flight home.