No doubt the NRL forked out a few bucks during the week; investing in a diversion to draw attention away from the pending departure of the rather embarrassing Peter Beattie and his role as ARLC Chairman.
Jason Demetriou, Anthony Seibold and Wayne Bennett took up the challenge and the spat played out as follows.
Demetriou suggested that Seibold is something of an overrated and under-skilled coach.
Seibold responded with the inference that Demetriou’s absence from the list of NRL head coaches said all that needed to be said.
Demetriou countered with some well-timed and telling statistics suggesting otherwise.
Bennett characteristically smirked his way through his mid-week press conference and essentially called the two fighters to the ring.
While many enjoyed the thrust and parry of the exchange, it was infantile and pointless, with all three seeking some sort of psychological dominance leading into the clash between the Broncos and Rabbitohs, where the players and the associated game plans would decide the result and not three coaches measuring the plume of each other’s feathers.
Thankfully, the actual match far exceeded the verbal in terms of interest and it was the Rabbitohs who took the initial advantage after an early penalty goal to Adam Reynolds and a Dane Gagai try that sent the visitors clear by eight with 15 minutes remaining in the first half.
Ten minutes earlier, James Roberts had emulated the macho nonsense of the coaches during the week and dropped a vicious elbow onto the head of Corey Oates, after the Brisbane flyer had attempted to score in the corner.
It was the cheapest of cheap shots and one that saw the representative centre sent to the bin via his own stupidity.
David Fifita continued his rather convincing impersonation of Jason Taumalolo with a stunning try to draw the Broncos back within two close to half time and when Jamayne Isaako converted a penalty goal early in the second half, the coaches’ childish interest in each other’s statue was at a stalemate.
Jaydn Su’A did his best to emulate Roberts’ insanity of the first half soon after and spent ten minutes on the pine as a result. However, despite playing a collective 20 minutes of the game with 12 men, Damien Cook, Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker took control and sent the Rabbitohs to a 22-8 lead.
Walker’s try was sublime and Cook’s set up by a superb run from Dane Gagai. With 15 minutes remaining, Bennett was presenting and Seibold may have had thoughts of heading to the car park, so humbling the looming result appeared after such a feisty week.
Another herculean effort from Fifita drew the Broncos back within eight before Kotoni Staggs scored with just three minutes remaining. It was on.
Then, the Broncos came in waves and appeared to be over the line on multiple occasions bar the superb goal-line defence of the Rabbitohs. As the siren sounded Matt Lodge did what he does best, went feral and started a melee inside the Rabbitohs’ half.
Souths held on for the 22-20 victory despite the absence of the Burgess brothers, two sin bins and a gallant Brisbane; determined to back up Seibold’s bravado during the week.
In the early Friday night match, Penrith had the opportunity to stake their claim on a top eight spot against the Cowboys in the sunshine state.
Perhaps someone should have explained the seriousness of the situation in which the mountain men found themselves, as they appeared to miss the point.
A loss spelled disaster and a potentially increased distance between themselves and both the Sharks and the Broncos pending further results over the course of the weekend.
Despite that reality Penrith started poorly and first half tries to Kyle Feldt and Murray Taulagi along with two Jordan Kahu conversions, sent the home side to the sheds with a 12-4 lead.
Brian To’o provided some hope for the visitors with a four pointer in the 33rd minute yet the Cowboys were by far the better team in the first 40.
Any Penrith fans waiting for an immediate reaction after some passionate and motivational words from Ivan Cleary were to be seriously disappointed. The Cowboys continued their dominance and found two second half tries. Feldt found his second in the 58th minute and Jason Taumalolo crossed with eight minutes remaining.
In between, the disappointing Panthers had threatened momentarily when Isaah Yeo crossed rather fortuitously with 18th minutes remaining, however Panthers fans will be wondering exactly what went wrong in Townsville.
With so much at stake, Penrith failed to rise to an occasion worth rising and continued another season of unfulfilled promise. Perhaps the so-called and constantly referenced potential of the Panthers needs to be called into question.
Once again, with everything on the line, they stumbled, badly, and will potentially miss the semi-finals off the back of the most inconsistent of seasons.