South Sydney Rabbitohs Maul St Helens in World Club Challenge

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South Sydney owner Russell Crowe enjoys the English weather.

MERSEYSIDE, ENGLAND – They said there would be withdrawal symptoms after Slammin’ Sam Burgess. They said the conditions would restrict them. They said the weather would cause them problems. What do they know?! The South Sydney Rabbitohs never got the naysayers memo, as they marched into St Helens for the World Club Challenge and carried on marching – all over the Super League champions – from the 3rd minute.

The newly-minted World Club Challenge set a variety of NRL clubs (Brisbane Broncos, St George Illawarra Dragons and, of course, Bunnies) against the top three of the Super League (Warrington Wolves, Wigan Warriors and St Helens). The results were mildly predictable. The Wolves were unfortunate to lose to the Dragons, the Broncos eked out an extra time, golden point win after a messy game, and the Rabbitohs? Well, the Rabbitohs simply picked up from where they finished in the last ten minutes of last year’s NRL Grand Final, smashing the snot out of their opponents.

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One of the many tries……

St Helens were brave. They never stopped running. But the class from the Rabbitohs was too much. Slick dummy-running moves and quick inventive reactions to the unexpected put the Saints to the sword.

The match was watched, by the way, by the aforementioned Burgess and owner Russell Crowe – who declined being a presenter at this year’s Oscars in favor of watching his team according to a BBC interview.

And the Rabbitohs didn’t disappoint their distinguished guests, opening the scoring in the third minute with a beautiful grubber from Adam Reynolds, which was latched onto by new signing Glenn Stewart. Reynolds was the architect of Souths attack. They looked like champions of the world, forcing turnovers and repeat sets and then pouncing with perfect footwork and offloads. Their third try was the pick of the bunch a host of dummy runners, allowing play-makers Reynolds and a quick-thinking Luke Keary to put centre Bryson Goodwin through a half gap. He then he off-loaded to the ever-menacing Greg Inglis for the simplest of tries.

24-0 at half time, and what had been billed as the “greatest night in St Helens history” was fast becoming a nightmare.

The most impressive element of Souths perfect showing was their savage defence; they hunted in packs to the effect that the video referee was called on three times for St Helens. Each time Saints were close, a Souths defender disrupted the ball – rendering St Helens utterly incapable of getting the ball down over the line.

The loss of Slammin’ Sammy was barely noticed; the added ball playing ability of Glenn Stewart and John Sutton in the pack meant the Bunnies had too many big skillful forwards to go with the incredible go-forward of the remaining Burgess twins (both bigger than older brother Sam). With man/mountain Tim Grant still to come into this South Sydney pack, there is no doubt that they have the strongest chance of repeating the historic feat of last year.  They’re likely to take the NRL Grand Final again according to reports by Sport Betting Dime. The balance between guile and power in their pack, along with a settled back line, means that few teams will be able to match the balance of their side.

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Souths add to their trophy haul over the last six months.

And what of the Super League, close in two games and trashed in the final one?

St Helens captain Jon Wilkin summed it up perfectly in in his post game interview with Sky Sports, highlighting the higher level of skills, the clinical nature of the game in the NRL and the sheer amount of talent that is constantly coming through the lower ranks into the first grade. English rugby league may throw up one or two great players, and may compete with the Australians and Kiwis on the international stage, but the fact remains that most NRL teams would still hand out a beating to any Super League team and possibly to an England international side. The skill levels do not exist in the Super League and the game is not played by enough people at a young enough age. So, whilst the domestic league may be strong, the international competitions highlight a distinct gap between England and the other two rugby league powers.

Throughout this entire competition South Sydney’s movie star owner, Crowe, has constantly called for a more inclusive competition that brings the top three of both the NRL and Super League together for a series of matches. One has to say that if the Super League wants to be producing the kind of talent that is being churned out en masse in the NRL, these types of inter-competition matches should be a regular fixture in the calendar. Yes there will be claims of burnout and yes, the NRL has a salary cap that is twice the size of the existing one in Super League. But the gap is not so vast at the international level and that is surely the most important part?

An enhanced World Club Challenge, would at least allow English Super League teams the chance to play against the very best and thus improve themselves. Should they happen to beat one or two of the NRL teams, then that breaks the facade of invincibility surrounding the Southern Hemisphere side and benefits the English national side when they compete against the Kangaroos and Kiwis.

And so, South Sydney marches on (to another Grand Final possibly?) and the World Club Challenge may indeed have a future. For the sake of parity the Super League will hope so.

That’s it for now. Feel free to add your thoughts below, please look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@: RugbyWrapUpJaime Loyd, Junoir Blaber, James Harrington, Jamie Wall, Nick HallDJ Eberle, Jake FrechetteCody Kuxmann, Scheenagh Harrington, Karen Ritter and Declan Yeats, respectively.

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About the Author ()

Jamie Loyd hails from London but has traveled the globe playing, watching and covering rugby - especially Rugby League. He's quick-witted, smart and has exceptional elbows.
  • Dinker Man

    This is another reason why League is better than Union. They eliminate the politics and get a real world champ.

    • Junoir Blaber

      I was wondering why Union doesn’t do that with Super Rugby and the ECC.

      • Because it’d be a slaughter…

        • Junoir Blaber

          Not likely. Toulon would beat the Tahs!

          • I’m not even going to dignify that with a reasonable response.

          • Mr Wall is correct.

          • Toulon, at full strength vs Waratahs at full strength would be a huge event… one that will never happen. But the reasons why one team would win would make a great hypothetical piece by Wall and Harrington.

      • Dinker Man, we’d be willing to agree on half of that with you, but it’s just personal preference…

        Mssr. Blaber, we’d likely cure all diseases before we’d come up with that answer.

      • Timing. Find somewhere in both codes frankly ludicrous year-round schedules to fit in another competition.

  • It must be nice to be able to say the Academy Awards is old hat… We’re looking forward to watching Sam’s bros evolve. Stay tuned….

    • Junoir Blaber

      The Burgess bros are top players of their own.

      • Blindside Bomber

        We need to harness what Mother Burgess fed those boys and get it to Team USA camp right away.

  • In my opinion any expansion of the World Club Challenge would be pretty unlikely, simply because the NRL clubs wouldn’t take it seriously.

    Player burnout concerns have been the cause of players withdrawing from internationals and the Nines at slightest complaint, mostly due to direct orders from the clubs. All they care about is the premiership.

    A one-off game against a Super League team seems manageable, but it’s hard to see it them justifiably making it any bigger than that. Especially when they’ve already tried it back in the global Super League era with hardly any success.

    • Junoir Blaber

      The insular attitude of the Leaguies is a huge reason why the game has never gone global.

      • That’s not true, League had a World Cup 33 years before Union did.

        • The one-offs would be problematic just from a logistics/travel standpoint.

  • Scheens

    I once – true story – told a man with barbed wire tattooed on his neck that league was a game for girls. Then ran like hell. I’ve always preferred union, but what cheers me is the fact Crowe’s presence has brought so much media attention to the game in general. He’s a top bloke and fair play to him for ditching the fake crowd to spend the evening with some real people!

    • Junoir Blaber

      I don’t hate league and I respect Crowe for what he has done.

      • Any and all rugby is good rugby! There, we said it!

    • What you didn’t see was that he turned and ran from you simultaneously.

  • Anon

    The Sharks who by virtue of a the guaranteed finals berth for each conference beat Toulon not 6 weeks ago. The fifth/6th best team from last years SR tournament only getting back into rugby beat the reigning Euro Champs in the middle of their season.

    As for Rugby’s answer to the World Club Championship well conflicting seasons tend to put pay to that idea. Both the SL and NRL have a better alignment. Also, there’s the case of if you do it properly you would potentially have a much longer tournament than you anticipated. League only has two leagues of note.

    • Finish the sentence: The fifth/6th best team from last years SR tournament (who are rested and healthy and) only getting back into rugby (after a break) beat the reigning Euro champs (who were missing six or seven first-choice players to the Six Nations and had another nine or 10 in the infirmary) in the middle of their (tough and injury-hit Top 14) season.

      If anyone can find somewhere in the rugby schedule to fit a match like this so it’s properly competitive, please can they do so.

      • Jake Frechette

        I think it is more fun to dream about such matches. We already have more matches at the top level(s) than is good for the players.

        Here is hoping Union finds a few more celebrated fans or even owners.

        • Daniel Craig, Mark Cuban, Peter O’Toole, Richard Harris, Prince Harry… Those are some pretty big names. And didn’t Clinton and Bush play a little?

      • Junoir Blaber

        Well said!

    • Mr. James Harrington raises makes valid points and lends more to debate over adult beverages into the wee hours of the morn.

    • Le Frog

      Toulon’s first side would flog any of South Africa’s Super Rugby teams. Don’t be daft.

      • Now, now… No need to get “uppity,” Le Frog.

      • That’s a moot point. It’s supposed to be a match between the two best teams, not the best of one and worst of the other.

        It’s like South Africa boasting about how the Lions could whip Treviso any day of the week…

  • Jake Frechette

    While a nice novelty, nothing tops State of Origin for League entertainment!

  • Jamie Loyd

    For me I am almost willing to sacrifice any domestic Union match to watch an Origin game……and the decision between a Union international or Origin is difficult at best……As for the Toulon vs Sharks game, I suggest next time they have it in Durban, nice hard field and watch them both go at it. I would back Toulon, just so much more firepower than any of the SA teams…….Unfortunately right now Toulon would indeed wallop the Tahs 😉

      • Jamie Loyd

        Did you watch the Tahs/Rebels game? One poor moment vs an entire game of crimes against rugby union? hahaha

      • Suspect he meant these guys…

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djdeWqJ67fQ

        • OK, new argument: who would win between Toulon and South Sydney?

          • Didn’t a two-match league / union challenge take place in the UK several years ago? If I recall, the union side won the union game at a canter, and the league side won the league game… also at a canter.

            Hear that Greg Inglis’s CV is being touted around the Top 14, amid rumours he’s after an €800k deal. The exodus of players from the NRL is bad for league – and, I suspect, probably union too.

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