Round 19: Finals race heats up while contenders assert dominance

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Skipper Dyson Heppell led from the front. 

By ADAM FOSTER, SAM McLARTY, NICKOLAS ZAKHARIA, EZRA HOLT AND TAS MAVRIDIS

Round 19 delivered with goal of the year contender and upsets sure to keep the finals race wide open on the run home 

Swans’ struggles continue as Bombers dominate in second half showcase

For years fans have expected Sydney to win matches when they need to. But after a back-and-forth first half where both teams threw jabs at each other, it was Essendon that came through with the knockout blow in the second half as they make a late charge for finals. The Swans have been an annual fixture in finals for years, but they may fall behind a rampaging Essendon side that appears to want to play in September more. Essendon looked a step above Sydney around the contest, an area that the Swans particularly excel in, and it unsettled the Swans. The Bombers had 15 more contested possessions and looked a step above in the second half. With four rounds remaining, Essendon will most likely need to win at least three of their last four matches, which is exactly what they did last year to sneak into the finals. Skipper Dyson Heppell led from the front with 31 possessions as the young Bombers side showed they can beat anyone at their best. – Adam Foster 

Tigers outlast wounded Pies

Reigning premiers Richmond recoded a stirring 28-point win over the Collingwood Magpies in front of a sellout MCG crowd to enhance their status as premiership favourites. Richmond ran out winners 16.9.105-12.5.77 against a luckless Collingwood outfit whose torrid day turned to worse with the injuries of defenders Jeremy Howe with a concussion and Matthew Sharenburg with an ACL, the third of his career. Superstar midfielder and Brownlow Medallist Dustin Martin endured a tough tag from Pie Levi Greenwood but still managed to find three goals and gather 19 possessions, while Jack Riewoldt also kicked three goals. Perhaps they moment of the day was when Tiger cub Jack Higgins slotted a spectacular acrobatic goal that sent the 88,000-strong MCG crowd into raptures. Pies Steele Sidebottom and Scott Pendlebury had 38 and 37 disposals respectively and small forward Josh Thomas kicked four. Damien Hardwick’s men are to face a resurgent Geelong outfit on  Friday night at the MCG and a win would be an unprecedented 19th victory in a row on the MCG.  – Sam McLarty

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Young Tiger Jack Higgins made his mark with a spectacular goal. 

Melbourne resume charge towards finals, while Adelaide’s nightmare season continues

Melbourne inched themselves to a 13-point victory against the Crows with the likes of ruckman Max Gawn igniting the Dees’ midfield when it was needed most. The early dominance shown by the Crows had crumbled by the third quarter, as they scored only one goal to Melbourne’s seven. Adelaide endured more damage to their nightmare season on Saturday night with winger Paul Seedsman being added to the extensive list of Crows players that have suffered hamstring injuries this year. Melbourne supporters would be anticipating that the Dees keep their momentum flowing through the last four rounds to secure their spot in the top eight. – Nickolas Zakharia

Carlton show promise with gutsy win on the Gold Coast

Carlton notched up their second win for the season against Gold Coast in a slippery contest on Saturday night. The gutsy victory closes a significant week for the Blues as they secured another young gun, Patrick Cripps, to stay at Ikon Park until 2021. Cripps continued his stellar season racking up 37 disposals, 11 tackles and one goal. The Suns started strong by booting the first three goals of the game and gaining 19 more contested possessions by the first break. Carlton seemed on the way to yet another thrashing but were able to respond with a seven goal third term which lead them to a 35-point win. Steven May lead with seven marks and seven rebound-50s but was not able to push his side to follow up on their shock win over Sydney last week. – Ezra Holt

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The Blues secured Patrick Cripps until 2021. 

North Melbourne keep finals hopes alive in Hobart

The finals race remains wide open with North Melbourne throwing their hat in the ring with an upset 40-point win over second-placed West Coast. With Sydney struggling in recent times, six sides look to be fighting for three spots in the finals. With North’s run home consisting of Brisbane, Western Bulldogs, Adelaide and St Kilda, the Roos will fancy their chances to sneak into the finals. However, North won’t have the advantage of playing any more matches at their second home in Hobart. With 13 wins in 15 matches at Blundstone Arena, there is no doubt that North Melbourne have created a fortress thanks to their ability to adjust the inclement weather the ground is known for. – Tas Mavridis