It takes a lot to get me dancing. A wedding maybe, or a whole lot of liquid courage. I certainly don’t dance outside, especially not in the pouring rain and almost never among 13,000 strangers. Those days are long gone.
Or so I thought.
But sometimes things happen to your body that are out of your control. You move without thinking because instinctively you know it is the perfect way to move in that moment, the exact way you are supposed to react to the events taking place around you. One minute you are hunched over in your seat, shivering as cold rain drives into your face like arrows from a crossbow, the next minute you are thrusting the person next to you up in the air in a vice-like bear hug with enough force to lift a small car. Seconds later, you can’t feel your legs, your entire body is warm despite being soaked and you have to remind yourself where you are and what just happened or you’re likely to pass out.
And then it happens.
You can feel your feet again. They’re tapping at the ground. You realise the magnitude of the events that just took place. What an important game this was in the context of the season. You’re not thinking about how much a loss would have hurt, because the sheer joy that comes from witnessing such a special moment live has obliterated any notion that events could have played out in any other way, and you know right then and there that this is something you’ll remember for a lifetime. The tapping has infiltrated both legs now and your hips are wriggling because it’s not every day you get to be a part of an occasion like this, to experience spontaneous combustion with so many people all at once.
Your arms start moving up and down with both index fingers pointed to the sky, not just because of the emotional release from four golden point games in five weeks, but because this win keeps the dream alive, keeps the season alive, guarantees at least a few more weeks of meaningful games, another chance to return to Mt Smart with something to play for other than pride.
Once those fingers are pointed, there’s no stopping it now. We all know where this is headed. Recent heartbreak has taken us to the brink, but we’re back, baby. Finally it is our time to celebrate, our time to party. At times like these there’s no shame in losing control, it’s almost rude not to let loose. Shaun’s twinkle toes started a party that will go on long into the night. The afterglow will shine bright enough to get us through the next week. So I guess there’s nothing left to do but dance. Clear some space people, happy man coming through. Feels good to be stayin’ alive!
SET OF SIX
1) Solomone Kata defensive genius. We’ve talked in recent weeks about the development of Solomone Kata from turnstile to above average NRL defender, and his steal on Josh Mansour may have elevated him to genius level. Shaun Johnson’s dancing feet have received the majority of the plaudits, but let’s not forget about Kata’s massive moment.
2) Shaun Johnson’s kicking game was spot on. We’ll always see the golden point try in the highlights reel, but it was Johnson’s accurate kicking game that had a much bigger impact on the outcome of this match. He forced no less than five line-dropouts and dictated where the game was played. When Johnson mixes control and direction with his magical footwork, he’s one of the best in the business.
3) The Warriors will put a big score on someone soon. The men from Mt Smart may have been struggling to get across the line lately, but that’s not for lack of opportunities. They dominated large sections of the Panthers clash and were either held up or stopped just short of the line on numerous occasions. We’re very close to being very good, Warrior Nation.
4) There’s no penalties in golden point. Was Leilani Latu even close to being square at marker? You be the judge:
5) Don’t go high on Josh Mansour. Albert Vete can vouch for that, but he wasn’t the only one who felt the full force of Mansour’s powerful fend. The Penrith winger scored two tries, had 24 carries and ran for a whopping 266 metres, almost single-handedly keeping the Panthers in the match. A stand-out performance in a losing effort.
6) Why was Blake Ayshford on the bench? When Ayshford was named on the interchange on Tuesday, I was unconcerned. Reports suggested Bodene Thompson and Albert Vete were both likely to return. Ayshford would provide cover in case Manu couldn’t recover in time. I got it, a bit of smoke and mirrors. Part of the charade coaches like to perform on team-list Tuesday. Then the team went up on the big screen at the ground, and there he was. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against Blake Ayshford. He’s done a decent job this season and is a capable contributor. But why have an outside back on the bench? In what circumstances, other than injury, was Ayshford going to come on to the field? It’s complete nonsense and it has to stop immediately.
7) What a win for the U20s! Since we keep going to extra time, here’s my version. The Penrith Holden Cup side came to Mt Smart having only lost 1 game in the first 20 rounds of the season. But armed with the likes of Nathaniel Roache and Bunty Afoa, the young Warriors pulled ahead, had a slight wobble, then regained their composure to get back in front and hang on for the win to keep their finals hopes alive. For those of you who keep an eye on the Holden Cup, this won’t come as news, but for anyone who doesn’t, try to catch a game and watch out for Junior Pauga, who looks to have a massive future in the game.
FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS