BEFORE yesterday's match between Fassifern and Brothers, both camps played down the fact it was a grand final replay.
Clearly someone forgot to tell the players.
In slippery conditions at Hayes Oval, several scuffles broke out, one player was knocked unconscious and two more were sent off late in the game to prove that no game between the competition's two top teams is taken lightly.
In the end it was a crucial 10-minute period in the first half that proved the difference with Brothers eventually securing a hard-fought 26-10 win.
After scoring first, Fassifern went to sleep, dropping the greasy ball three times inside their own quarter, leading to three tries to the visitors.
The normally sure-handed Andrew Walker was twice the culprit as wrecking-ball forward Sione Piutau scored twice and Sam Kruger once in the game-winning stretch.
The home side showed more promise in the second half but poor handling from both teams meant tempers began to flare.
Ethan Cobin was knocked out in a sickening clash midway through the second half and, after minutes on the ground, was eventually helped from the field by training staff.
Then two high shots from Fassifern players soon after led to the referee calling both sides in for a talk before another high shot on the next tackle sparked an all-in melee.
While the scuffle was over quickly, the referee chose to exercise his power, sending Fassifern captain Walker off as well as Brothers reserve forward Fakachako Teatau who left the bench to join in the fight.
Disappointed Fassifern player/coach Daniel Roos said his team can only improve on what he described as a "shocking first half performance".
"I don't think we can play any worse than that first half," Roos said.
"We just gave them too much ball and against a team like that, you can't do that. I think it was a good reality check for some of the guys."
Roos said his team had closed the gap on Brothers.
"We set a goal of winning the second half and we did that at least," he said.
"We know what we are capable of and we didn't play that well today so we can only improve."
Brothers coach Mick Wilson said the game was typically physical and fiery.
"It always seems to get a bit heated up here against Fassifern," he said.
"There were a few high shots, not just by one player, it was by a few of them. We wore the high shots for a while then at the end it wore out that's all.
"Our defence was great today, they had a lot of ball in the second half but we kept at it.
"In the first half, they dropped the ball and we turned it into points ... it's a pretty simple game really."
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