The feeling was certainly there in XXXX Rivalry Round, which opened this year’s Central Highlands Rugby League season.

In Round 1 results, the Bluff Rabbitohs retained the Kelly O’Brien Memorial Shield for the sixth year in a row defeating, the Blackwater Crushers 24-20 in Bluff.

The Rabbitohs held off the Crushers throughout the match, including in the frantic final minute of the game when the visitors were inside the Bluff half, creatively attacking the line to try and steal the victory on the hooter.

Dane Heron produced a man of the match performance for the home side playing out wide early before returning to five-eighth following an injury to Peter McLaughlin.

In the earlier Women’s match, the Blackwater Crushettes were far too strong for the Emerald Cowgirls breaking the Bluff curse, winning 58-6.

It was always going to be a tough task to travel to Bluff with 12 women, but the blowout didn’t reflect the effort the Cowgirls gave for the full 70 minutes.

In Middlemount, the Panthers begin their premiership redemption with a 50-16 win over the Dysart Bulls. 

It was close at halftime with the home side ahead 12-10, but a few words must have been said at the break with the home side coming out of the sheds to put on a masterclass for the home crowd in the second stanza, scoring seven tries to the Bulls’ one.

The Mountain Men have built on last year’s success, starting their year strong with a 50-20 win over the Emerald Cowboys.

The home side have recruited Tigers’ Ray Ebsworth to partner Jared Owens in the halves and strengthen their spine.

The final two matches of the weekend were in Emerald with the Tigers hosting the Clermont Bears in a Sunday afternoon affair.

The Bears came out of the blocks firing, scoring the first two tries of the match before the Tigers reduced the deficit to two before the break.

The Bears kicked back into gear after halftime with only twelve men on the field to win 28-14. 

The Bears welcomed the return of Dean Williams, Dylan Breckon and Alfie Shannon adding experience to their side and making the challenge even harder for the defending premiers, who only fielded six of their 19 premiership winners from last season.

The Women’s game earlier was abruptly ended with 12 minutes to go due to an injury, but the Bears proved too good defeating the Tigers 30-18.

The inclusions of Kailah Rogers and Mel Micallef to the Bears lineup allowed a few positional changes, including moving Carly Bell from fullback to the back row, to bolster the side.

Men’s Ladder after Round 1: Middlemount 2, Springsure 2, Clermont 2, Bluff 2, Blackwater 0, Tigers 0, Cowboys 0, Dysart 0

Women’s Ladder after Round 1: Blackwater 2, Clermont 2, Dysart 2, Tigers 0, Cowgirls 0

For the full draw, results, ladders and upcoming fixtures of the Central Highlands Rugby League, visit www.chrugbyleague.com.au