We’re still catching our breath from arguably the greatest opening weekend of finals matches in NRL history, but Throwback Thursday this week commemorates what has to rank as one of the finest week two combos the premiership has ever seen.
North Sydney and Brisbane played out a gripping minor semi-final at the SFS in 1994, only for Canterbury and Canberra to trump it with an extra-time thriller in the major semi 24 hours later at the same venue.
The Bears led hot favourites Brisbane 14-4 midway through the first half after a barrage of tries down Michael Hancock’s wing, but a double to youngster Wendell Sailor and a try to five-eighth Kevin Walters brought the defending premiers back to level shortly after halftime.
The Broncos dominated much of the second half but ignored a myriad of deadlock-breaking field goal opportunities. Norths capitalised during a rare foray into Brisbane’s half – sharpshooter No. 7 Jason Taylor drilled a 30-metre field goal down the middle with five minutes remaining. Desperate attempts by the two-time premiers to save their season in the dying stages came up empty, with Norths holding on for a famous 15-14 victory.
The following day, Canterbury took an early 6-0 lead after a terrible mistake from Canberra winger Noa Nadruku presented a try to Jarrod McCracken inside two minutes. But the Raiders hit back with a breathtaking try to Brett Mullins from a perfectly-executed scrum move.
A brilliant off-load from Bulldogs second-rower Jason Smith sent winger Jason Williams over in the corner, before Mal Meninga stormed over for a try for Canberra, reducing the halftime deficit to 14-12.
The Bulldogs led 18-12 for most of the second half after a Steven Hughes try, but a break by David Furner inside the final minute saw interchange forward David Westley score under the posts for the Raiders to send the match into extra-time.
A frantic 20 minutes of added time ensued, until Williams unleashed a giant step to evade opposing winger Ken Nagas and race 50 metres up the sideline. Two plays later, fellow Kiwi flankman Daryl Halligan potted a field goal from close range with two and a half minutes remaining to book Canterbury’s spot in the Grand Final 19-18.
[YouTube – Botany09]