The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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Ben Barba has scored a hatrick on his way to leading the Bulldogs to a 42-16 thrashing of Newcastle.
There was one late change to each side before kick off with SG Ball prop Paki Afu brought onto the bench to make his debut for the Bulldogs whilst for Newcastle Ben Wyborn came into the centres.
The game started well for Canterbury with some enterprising play seeing 16 points scored in 16 minutes. Fullback Jimmy Fawcett bagged the first when he backed up some great play starting with a long cut out from second rower Jeco Makatoa who sent centre Jamal Idris up the sideline before he passed back inside to lock Jake Foster who then gave it to Ben Barba who in turn gave it to Jimmy Fawcett who scored under the posts. Despite some sloppy play the Bulldogs defence held strong and it was Jamal Idris who bagged the next try in the 13th minute as he leapt high to take a Ben Barba bomb. Barba missed the first of his many sideline attempts and the Bulldogs raced out to a 10-0 lead. Ben Barba then got the first of his 3 tries as he capitalised on a Jeco Makatoa bust.
The Knights were not giving up, however and they hit back to score 2 tries, the first in the 25th minute and then again in the 30th. Ben Barba was able to get one back for the 'Dogs just before half-time as he capitalised on yet more enterprising play from his forwards with captain Nathan Smith breaking the line before giving it to a flying Nathan Benny who passed it back out to Barba. To add to Newcastle's woes was what looked to be a neck injury to Papamau who was carted off the field.
The second half started poorly for the Bulldogs as the Knights scored through Iosefa in just the 42nd minute. The Bulldogs were turning over the ball and when they finally had possession were starting to play some panic football. The big Knights forwards were getting over the pups however it was the Bulldogs who were able to bag the next points when winger Heka Nanai went over in the corner thanks to a beautiful cut out ball from Barba. Barba missed another sideline kick as the Bulldogs went out to a 24-16 lead.
The Bulldogs were finding form and second rower Daniel Harrison bagged himself a 4 pointer when he crashed over after 5/8 Arana Taumata regathered his own chip kick and handed it back inside to Harrison. Boom 17-year-old centre Jamal Idris bagged his second as he pounced on a great Ben Barba grubber kick. Another sideline kick gone astray from Barba saw the Bulldogs take an unassailable 34-16 lead with just 19 minutes to go.
The Bulldogs were far from done as Ben Barba completed his hatrick by touching down in the corner before his halves partner Arana Taumata backed up a big break from centre Chevvy Penehoe to race away to score. Ben Barba missed the sideline kick however it was the Bulldogs who were clear winners by 42 points to 16.