Super coach Wayne Bennett launched his South Sydney Rabbitohs tenure in the most traditional of rugby league ways. Facing fellow foundation club Sydney Roosters at the Sydney Cricket Ground, the home of so many of the Rabbitohs' record 21 first grade rugby league premierships.
A crowd of 24,527 gathered, despite the threatening weather, as the two bitter rivals began their 2019 NRL seasons. It was a night that would have seen Bennett experience a full range of emotions, although those around him were no doubt oblivious to how the stony-faced veteran of 33 seasons was feeling.
He couldn't have been too happy early in the game when the Roosters split his defence right up the middle with a darting Jake Friend run from dummy half. The scrambling defence that prevented the try would have been more pleasing.
He would have felt better as Souths scored the first try of the match after 11 minutes with a clever Adams Reynolds grubber kick that deliberately cannoned off the thick goal post padding. Lumbering Roosters prop Siosiua Taukeiaho fumbled for the ball at his feet before Cameron Murray dived in to ground it next to the post.
"He's one of the best kickers of the ball in the game. We were completing sets pretty good and giving him the opportunity to kick the ball, he made a real difference with his kicking game, but that's the benefit of controlling the football... we got some tries off it," Bennett enthused about Reynolds after the game.
"He doesn't play trials I don't think, I've found out since I've been at South Sydney, so you won't see him next year either," he added.
There were clear displays of early season rust from both sides and the rain which began to tumble down after 20 minutes wasn't helping. A penalty put the Roosters on the attack and it was that man Friend who squeezed over from dummy half for a try, which saw the scores level at six after Latrell Mitchell's conversion.
The rain fell even heavier and next time the Rabbitohs were on the attack it was another clever grubber kick, this time from Damien Cook out of dummy half which led to a try to Sam Burgess, who dived over ten metres in from the sideline.
Bennett wouldn't have been any happier with the second Roosters try as Rabbitohs five-eighth Cody Walker charged out of his defensive line ten metres out to pressure Cooper Cronk. The master halfback was too good for that; he jinked, cut through and put Mitchell Aubusson over for a try which would see the halftime score favour the Roosters 12-10.
Early in the second half when winger Campbell Graham dived over in the corner to take the scores to 14-12 in Souths favour, it would be hard to imagine Wayne allowing himself the luxury of a smile.
There was still way too much football to be played against the reigning premiers. And sure enough another error and back-to-back sets of six for the Roosters saw them cross for what looked like a certain try to Boyd Cordner, until replays showed a desperate goal line tackle by Sam Burgess had jarred the ball loose.
"That's what Sam brings, there were a lot of good players out there tonight. Game 1, there's a lot of improvement in us," Bennett said.
The rain eased but the handling mistakes didn't, as both teams started showing signs of fatigue. Souths were looking disjointed as they attacked the Roosters line with 21 minutes remaining, but once again they turned to a Reynolds grubber kick, ricocheting again off the padded posts and this time dived on by Cody Walker. The conversion took the Bunnies to an 18-12 lead heading into the final quarter of the game.
Surely Bennett cracked a smile when Alex Johnston ran around a flat-footed Latrell Mitchell to take the score to 24-12 with eleven minutes remaining. Mitchell and the Roosters weren't smiling as both teams converged for some push and shove.
He certainly would have appreciated the mad scramble with four minutes remaining to deny Josh Morris a try from a grubber kick to the corner. That mood tarnished seconds later as Daniel Tupou crashed over in the opposite corner following the drop out.
The animosity between the two sides, which boiled over late in the game, would have given Bennett a fair indication of the passion his new club is capable of producing. If Bennett didn't realise the enormity of this clash going in, he must have by fulltime.
The final siren sounded with the Rabbitohs recording a fine 26-16 victory in trying conditions against the competition's benchmark side.
After the game the media probed and prodded the master, trying to squeeze out an inkling of the great joy he must surely be feeling.
"Oh yeah I'm happy with the way they played, they were good," Bennett started. When asked if he wanted to expand on his answer, he replied; "Not really."
He was later coerced into acknowledging the strengths of his side, when asked about their new, more open, playing style.
"We've got very talented halves, we've got a very good fullback, we've got an extremely good hooker, so my job is to free them up and let them play their football. Not to try and put them in a box or play to a structure that is detrimental to the way they play," Bennett explained.
When asked about the significance of beating the premiers at the SCG in his first game in charge of the Rabbitohs, Bennett enigmatically and somewhat typically replied; "Ask me that question tomorrow."
He did so with a wry grin on his face.