Tony Durkin: epic clash within an epic game

FRIDAY night's Broncos-Roosters clash was surely one for the ages.

The gripping golden-try finish was doubtless the highlight of a fabulous match but the contest had much of what gave rise to the moniker 'the greatest game of all'.

Defence at times was brutal, the speed of the game frenetic and while clean breaks were at a premium, there was still plenty of excitement and a host of drama.

Lachlan Maranta added that piece of genuine theatre and sublime skill when he leapt like Michael Jordan to get a fingertip to an attempted Roosters field goal in the dying minutes.

And the courage of Ben Hunt to run the ball on the fifth tackle, take on the defence and score the match-winning try with 25 seconds remaining on the clock was one of his more memorable moments in what has been a spectacular past 18 months for the young halfback.

But for mine, the highlight was the running battle between props Sam Thaiday and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.

Obviously well aware that a punch would put them in the sin bin, they resorted to almost everything else, including one hair-pulling incident.

Leaders of their respective packs - and with Thaiday in the starting team for just the second time in 2015 - they took it upon themselves to stamp their authority in what was a pivotal match for both teams.

And the skirmish threatened to boil over from just the 25th second of the game when Thaiday went in low, front on, stopped Waerea-Hargreaves in his tracks and then dumped him on his back.

It was one of a number of exquisite low tackles in the 37 the big man pulled off during the match and one of probably half a dozen on his bulking opponent.

But not to be outdone, JWH made 36, many of them also around the legs and a few aimed at big Sam.

While not as spiteful or ferocious as those infamous clashes between Paul Harragon and Mark Carroll in the early-'90s or as brutal as Peter Kelly and Les Davidson a decade earlier, this was still engrossing drama.

Like bulls in a paddock claiming their supremacy, Thaiday and JWH twice went within a millimetre of an ugly head-butting incident.

They grabbled, wrestled and traded barbs every time they came together and the result was an absorbing conflict that I suggest 99.9% of the fans just loved.

Both players are integral to the success of their respective teams and considering both are hotheads and at times ill-disciplined, their constraint in this match was admirable.

Thaiday had 61 minutes on the field for 14 runs, 147 metres gained and 37 tackles, and was a deserved man of the match.

And on the stats sheet, JWH wasn't far away.



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