|Match Date||27th Sep, 2014|
|Venue||Homebush (ANZ Stadium)|
If you take the ‘‘um’’ off ‘‘momentum’’, Des Hasler told us, you’re left with ‘‘moment’’.
This was always going to be about which side, under the suffocating pressure of a preliminary final, would seize it.
Despite being under the pump for much of the contest, it was Des’s Dogs who won the key moments and, in turn, the contest. Like the majority of matches played throughout an absorbing finals series, a stunning comeback meant the result wasn’t secure until the siren. This was a game not only of critical moments but also, um, shifting momentum.
It was difficult to nominate the moment which mattered most. James Graham, part halfback and part battering ram, crossing the stripe was one. Josh Jackson, a man many believed shouldn’t have been allowed to take part, did likewise in another. And for all the complaints about wrestling, Lewis Brown’s brilliant try saver on Sam Perrett showed there is room for ‘‘the turtle’’ in rugby league.
In the end, it was the ability to keep their heads when so many Canterbury bodies were failing them, that sealed the victory. We have, just for the second time in history, a South Sydney-Canterbury grand final.
The Bulldogs did what was required to progress to the big day but will need an upturn in their form and fitness if they are to threaten.
Penrith, as has been the case all season, never gave up. It has been said that South Sydney’s progression to the decider is the fairytale yarn of the year. That ignores the rise of the chocolate soldiers, a side many felt overachieved when they finished the previous season 10th. A team unable to produce a single Origin representative – perhaps having their full complement for the entirety is an advantage – again went in as underdogs. They almost came out top dog.
The Panthers were the least structured of the four sides that came into the penultimate weekend. Why would you shackle the likes of Jamie Soward, James Segeyaro and Matt Moylan? At times it appeared their greatest strength was also their weakness. On numerous occasions late in the first half, Penrith had what the statisticians like to call ‘‘good possession-ball’’.
They squandered most of it by running sideways and throwing passes with abandon, often to a teammate in a worse position than the original ball carrier. Finally, it came off, Moylan darting over to make a contest of it. It’s the second week the Dogs let a try in just before the break, a lapse that is unlikely to go unpunished by their coach mid week.
There were other other reasons for Hasler to be concerned at the break. His captain, Michael Ennis, didn’t come out for the resumption after injuring a foot. This is no way for a great club man to spend his final moments in the blue and white. It was a blow to a team whose halfback and fellow spine member, Trent Hodkinson, was so restricted by a foot injury that Tim Lafai had to take the shots at goal. You know the kicking options are limited when Frank Pritchard puts his toe to the Steeden.
Not that the Mountain Men had it all their own way. In one of the most sickening head clashes in recent memory, Dean Whare came off second best when he collided with teammate Sika Manu.
Players from both sides played through pain.
There was also plenty of passion. On one occasion, players ran in with fists cocked but none were thrown for fear of the consequences. In farcical scenes, the referees felt the need not only to separate the protagonists but to lecture them ad nauseam despite absence of an indiscretion. Given his foot was in an ice bucket at the time, Ennis can’t be blamed for antagonising the referees into mindless chatter.
When asked about the prospect of lining up against countryman James Graham during South Sydney’s recovery session on Saturday morning, Sam Burgess diplomatically said he wouldn’t answer until after the evening’s proceedings. However, you could detect a glint in his eye when the prospect was raised. Whether the hookers participate in another match-up remains to be seen. It will all add to the intrigue that is grand final week.
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
|Josh Reynolds||Five Eighth||0||0||0||0|
|Trent Hodkinson||Half Back||0||0||0||0|
|Josh Jackson||Second Row||1||0||0||4|
|Tony Williams||Second Row||0||0||0||0|
|James Graham||Front Row||1||0||0||4|
|Aiden Tolman||Front Row||0||0||0||0|