It happened on the evening of Monday, 23 March 2020.
With the NRL season currently suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, instead of providing a weekly preview to the round of games, I will provide a flashback to a memorable game between the two sides which would’ve met this weekend.
Early this week NRL CEO Todd Greenberg announced that the season would be suspended indefinitely, with the decision to restart the season to be reviewed in the coming weeks as the deadly COVID-19 disease continues to spread around the world.
Should the NRL not be able to restart its season by 1 September, it will be abandoned with no premier to be crowned given how late into the year the league would have to run.
For the time being, sit back and enjoy some of the flashbacks of past matches between the would-be Round 3 opponents.
Round 17, 2007: Dragons 58 defeated Raiders 16
If there has been one team the St George Illawarra Dragons have struggled to beat this century, it’s the Canberra Raiders.
Going into Round 17 of the 2007 season the Dragons were lurking near the bottom of the ladder, having lost many experienced players at the end of the 2006 season.
Additionally, they hadn’t beaten the Raiders since 2000, and in their previous clash earlier in 2007 they copped a 30-6 hammering at Canberra Stadium.
But bolstered by the midseason arrival of Jamie Soward, the Red V would produce a devastating attacking performance, putting the Raiders to the sword by the scoreline of 58-16 at WIN Stadium, their 58 points being well above their points-scoring average in 2007.
The Raiders were first to score via Todd Carney, but the Dragons hit back with four tries to take a 22-10 lead into half-time.
They would not relent in the second half, scoring another six tries to record their highest score in a match, with Soward finishing with a personal haul of 22 points (one try and nine conversions), six points more than what the entire Raiders side could muster.
While the Dragons eventually finished the 2007 season 13th on the ladder, the seeds were only starting to be planted that would ultimately see them win the 2010 premiership.
2011 grand final: Sea Eagles 24 defeated Warriors 10
Going into the preliminary final weekend in 2011 many NRL fans had widely predicted that the league’s best two teams, Melbourne Storm and Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, would clash in the big dance for the third time in five years.
But after the Sea Eagles upheld their end of the bargain, defeating the Brisbane Broncos in their preliminary final, the Storm would be on the receiving end of one of the biggest preliminary final upsets in recent history, losing to the Warriors by 20-12.
The Warriors qualified for just their second NRL grand final, which saw them pitted against the Sea Eagles, who would start favourite to land a second premiership in four years.
While Des Hasler’s side was short priced for the title, the Warriors were not without their support. In addition to the fans who crossed the ditch to watch their side in the decider, fans not willing to support the Silvertails also jumped on the Warriors bandwagon.
Earlier in the day the Warriors under-20s side successfully defended their premiership, defeating the North Queensland Cowboys 31-30 in extra time after Cowboy Kyle Feldt, who’d become a grand final hero in his own right in 2015, missed a simple conversion in normal time.
In the first-grade decider scores were locked at 0-0 for most of the first half before the Warriors broke the deadlock thanks to a penalty goal to James Maloney.
However, two tries to the Sea Eagles – the first to Brett Stewart and the second to rookie halfback Daly Cherry-Evans on the half-time siren – saw the hosts enter half-time up 12-2.
A try to Glenn Stewart saw the Sea Eagles pull ahead 18-2 before the Warriors pegged back two tries in the next ten minutes to bring the score to 18-10, which could’ve been 18-14 had Maloney not missed both conversions.
Sea Eagles captain Jamie Lyon would then put the icing on the cake for the Manly, scoring a minute from full-time, with Michael Robertson landing the conversion in his final game for the club to give his side their eighth premiership.
It proved to be Des Hasler’s final game as Sea Eagles coach until his return in 2019, as he was sacked only six weeks afterwards when it was revealed he was attempting to bring some of his coaching staff over to the Bulldogs, where he commenced as their coach in 2012.
2018 preliminary final: Roosters 12 defeated Rabbitohs 4
Before Allianz Stadium was demolished, the outdated ground played host to one final NRL match, and it was only appropriate that the two original tenants – the Sydney Roosters and South Sydney Rabbitohs – played a preliminary final in front of a record crowd of 44,380.
The Roosters were aiming to return to the big dance for the first time since winning the 2013 premiership, while the Rabbitohs were back in the penultimate weekend of the season for the first time since winning the title themselves in 2014.
A tough, physical first half saw the scores locked at four-all after half-time, just before which Cooper Cronk suffered a serious shoulder injury while attempting to kick a field goal.
The Chooks broke the game open in the second half, with Blake Ferguson scoring in the 50th minute before Wests Tigers-bound centre Paul Momirovski sealed it with nine minutes remaining, giving the match the final scoreline of 12-4.
Trent Robinson’s men were thus back in the grand final after three preliminary final defeats in the previous four years and succeeded in beating the Melbourne Storm 21-6, capping off a season of dominance for the men from Bondi Junction.
Round 19, 2005: Sharks 30 defeated Knights 26
When the Cronulla Sharks and Newcastle Knights met in Round 19 of the 2005 season the Sharks were in freefall, having lost five of their last six matches to fall out of the top four.
Meantime, the Knights, who had lost their first 13 games of the season, looked to be starting to get on a roll, winning two of their past three matches and having to come from behind each time to do so, including beating the Cowboys at home 22-18 the previous week.
Thus the Round 19 clash between the Sharks and Knights at Toyota Park was crucial to both sides for varying reasons. The Sharks were trying to keep pace with the top four, while the Knights were looking to offload the wooden spoon to the Rabbitohs.
The Knights started stronger and led by 14-10 at half-time, and after the lead changed hands numerous times in the second half the scores were locked at 26-all at full-time.
The Sharks had led 26-24 with minutes remaining, but captain Brett Kimmorley was pinged for a high tackle, leaving it to his Knights counterpart Andrew Johns to kick the penalty goal to send the match into extra time.
After both sides missed field goal attempts in golden point, little-known Sharks centre Vince Mellars stepped up to score the matchwinning try for his side, the final score 30-26 in the Sharks’ favour.
By the end of the regular season the Sharks finished seventh on the ladder, while a late-season surge that saw them win six matches in succession was not enough for the Knights, who finished with the wooden spoon for the first time.
Round 17, 2004: Storm 66 defeated Panthers 14
In this rare Friday night match played at the now-demolished Olympic Park Stadium in Melbourne, the Storm made the most of their prime-time exposure, thrashing reigning premiers the Panthers by 66-14.
Because Channel Nine had the broadcasting rights to both the AFL and NRL in 2004, they had to broadcast one sport after the other on Friday nights, with the NRL being televised in prime time in Sydney and Brisbane and the AFL in prime time elsewhere.
Wimbledon was also talking place, meaning that whichever sport was televised second would be aired in the early hours of the next morning following the tennis coverage, and that’s exactly what happened in Melbourne.
On the evening of 2 July 2004 Melbourne television viewers would’ve seen the Kangaroos beat Essendon by 21 points in the AFL, then the two Wimbledon men’s semi-finals before the broadcast of the Storm versus Panthers NRL match began about seven-and-a-half hours after the full-time whistle.
The match itself saw the depleted Panthers skip out to a 10-0 lead, but what they didn’t know was that they would be on the end of a stunning Storm surge which saw them score 11 tries unabated, three of them to outside back Steve Turner.
To their credit, the Panthers would save themselves from total embarrassment, scoring the game’s final try at the death to make the final score 66-14.
These days the broadcasting rights allow for the Melbourne Storm to regularly play prime time matches on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays both home and away and for those matches to be shown live on Channel Nine in their home city (excluding Fox League-exclusive matches).
Round 9, 2005: Eels 50 defeated Cowboys 12
After their breakthrough 2004 season in which they fell just short of a preliminary final berth, many thought the Cowboys would have it all easy going forward in 2005.
After eight rounds the Cowboys sat on top of the ladder, having won six of their eight matches, but would not know what hit them when they descended onto the since-demolished Parramatta Stadium to face the Parramatta Eels in Round 9 of the 2005 season.
The Cowboys started well, scoring through Matt Sing after just two minutes, but from there the Eels, who had missed the finals in the previous two seasons, went on a blitz for the rest of the first half, leading 24-6 at the half-time break.
In front of just over 8000 fans the Eels got on with the job in the second half, scoring a further five tries to win the match 50-12 and remind the Cowboys, who would later thrash the Eels 29-0 in the preliminary final later that year, that nothing is to be taken for granted.
While the Eels took the win, the low attendance at Parramatta Stadium was attributed to two things: first, the Eels’ poor start to the season, which at one point saw them thrashed 54-14 by the Broncos in Brisbane, and second, the fact that this match was played on Mother’s Day.
Round 3, 2005: Wests Tigers 37 defeated Bulldogs 36
The 2005 season proved a memorable year for the Wests Tigers, won the premiership in their first finals appearance in their sixth season as a merged entity.
Well before that, though, not many pundits gave the Tigers, captained by Scott Prince, a chance to win the whole thing, though they did enter the season off the back of what was then their most successful season, finishing ninth in 2004.
But it was back in Round 3 when the Tigers opened their account for 2005, upsetting defending premiers the Bulldogs 37-36 thanks to a field goal from Scott Prince right at the death.
Tim Sheen’s side started slowly, falling behind 12-0 after just eight minutes before Brett Hodgson scored and converted his try to peg it back to 12-6. The score was 18-12 in favour of the Bulldogs at half-time, with Andrew Ryan scoring before Daniel Fitzhenry replied for the Tigers.
The Tigers went on a second-half rampage, scoring four tries to take the lead 36-18 with less than ten minutes remaining before the premiers scored three times in eight minutes to level the scores at 36-all and set up a grandstand finish.
Just as it seemed the match would head to extra time, which would’ve delayed the 6:00pm news on Channel Nine, Tigers halfback Scott Prince stepped up to the occasion, kicking the matchwinning field goal with 15 seconds remaining in regular time to give his side an upset 37-36 victory.
That win would prove to be the first seed planted in what would ultimately be a successful year for the Wests Tigers, finishing fourth and winning four consecutive finals matches to land their first premiership as a merged entity.
Round 5, 2007: Titans 28 defeated Broncos 16
It was Friday the 13th in April of 2007 when the Gold Coast Titans, in their first season in the NRL, took on the Brisbane Broncos in a home game they had to relocate to Suncorp Stadium due to the low capacity of its then-temporary home ground, Carrara Stadium.
The Titans had performed promisingly in the first few matches of their existence, defeating the Sharks and Panthers (in Penrith) while losing narrowly to the Dragons and by 22-6 to the Bulldogs in Sydney.
But they would rise to the occasion for their first clash against the Brisbane Broncos, who by contrast lost three of their first four games as they struggled to get their premiership defence going.
Despite the Broncos starting favourites, the Titans would shock their bigger brothers with a 28-16 victory, with Mark Minichiello (the brother of Sydney Roosters legend Anthony) breaking the nil-all deadlock with a try in the 28th minute and not looking back.
The impressive Titans victory, however, was soured by a serious leg injury suffered by forward Michael Henderson, which ruled him out for the rest of the season, just before full-time.
Inaugural Titans coach John Cartwright said of the win: “It doesn’t get much better than coming to the premiers’ home ground and beating them”.
The Broncos would gain some revenge later in the season, edging out the Titans 19-18 in golden point extra time in Round 17.
Those were just some of the more memorable matches between the two sides which would’ve met this weekend, if not for the postponement of the 2020 NRL season while the League grapples through the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.