I can’t bring myself to write too much about last night’s game. I’ve only just mustered the strength to watch a replay of Souths’ last try – even though I know Adam Reynolds will inevitably touch down next to the sticks, I’m still hoping for a knock on or forward pass or something – anything – that might snuff out the Rabbitohs’ irrepressible attacking raid. Alas.
There aren’t many positives coming out of a dirty derby loss like that. The performance of Tautau Moga was one, as he shows more and more evidence of his ability, and looks more and more like an 18-year-old Israel Folau. Boyd Cordner is another, the lion-hearted back-rower who has inherited Craig Fitzgibbon’s No.12 jumper, and plays with every ounce of the mettle his predecessor brought to the Eastern Suburbs club.
But the biggest positive is the health of the league’s oldest rivalry. These are just two sides that simply don’t like each other terribly much. On a cold Monday night when only the real died-in-the-wool battlers made their way to Moore Park, there was a genuine bitterness in the stands. Every Souths fan carried a chip on their shoulder after the Herald ran a yarn explaining how the Burrow was forbidden from bringing their parachute banner into the ground. The Roosters fans aren’t used to seeing their old foes sit higher than them on the ladder. ‘Hatred’ is a strong word, but if anyone in the NRL ‘hates’ each other, it’s these two mobs.
With the tensest of stages set, the football – over two legs; round one and last night – was scintillating. The Roosters must cake their jumpers in butter because they retain this unrivalled knack for dropping the footy, but aside from that, the rugby league was straight out of the top draw. You could hear the sting of every tackle as the big boppers went toe-to-toe, Ali-Frazier style. Sometimes in club games the forwards just try to stop the other pack. Not on Monday. The two sets of gorillas were out to hurt each other.
As the Roosters prematurely uncorked the champagne in the 78th minute, the unthinkable happened. YouTube it if you haven’t seen it, I’d rather not taunt myself by putting Reynolds’ match-sealing four-pointer into words.
Bring on the rematch. After what the two foundation clubs produced in their two 2012 fixtures, the anticipation for a return bout in 2013 – almost certainly a season opener – will be fevered. Can’t wait.