25 rounds, 192 games, #Origin on a Sunday, and a September Grand Final.
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The annual clash got off to a slow start - just the one try in the first half to City hooker Robbie Farah, converted easily by winger Hazem El Masri. The first half was a tale of two quarters - the first twenty minutes devoted to City attacking the line with just the one scoring result while Country took charge for the second twenty, not able to cross the line but for City's great defence.
Late in the first half concerns turned to Country half Brett Kimmorley was assisted from the field with what was thought a possible neck injury. Reports suggest he has concussion and may miss Cronulla's clash with the Warriors on Saturday.
The second half started with points aplenty as Hazem El Masri opened proceedings with an easy penalty to send City eight points clear. Just minutes later on the back of some good pressure Country winger Anthony Quinn opened the scoring for the "home" side and shortened the gap to two once Craig Fitzgibbon converted.
A relatively soft try twenty minutes from time to Storm forward Ryan Hoffman for City put the final icing on the cake, despite a shock miss from El Masri, the City side managed to hold their lead through a stunning six straight sets late in the game, despite Country's Newcastle connection of Buderus and Gidley throwing themselves at the line. City's line held strong throughout this period and ultimately won them the game.
A late challenge in the final minute from Gidley was unsuccessful as he dropped the ball over the line, giving the City boys a victory in the annual clash by six points. Plenty of kudos, particularly in defence to Country players - Craig Fitzgibbon and Anthony Laffranchi, whilst in attack Danny Buderus kept taking the ball to the line. City's Braith Anasta and Anthony Minichiello were strong from the back, Hazem El Masri was safe under the high ball and made some divisive runs, while up front Hoffman and Thompson both made themselves known to selectors.
LeagueUnlimited Live Commentary:
A fine night at BCU International Stadium in Coffs Harbour, crowd slowly building with kickoff roughly half an hour away.
Country: Brett Stewart, Josh Morris, Anthony Quinn, Phil Graham, Amos Roberts, Kurt Gidley, Brett Kimmorley, Craig Fitzgibbon, Danny Buderus, Brett White, Greg Bird, Anthony Laffranchi, Ben Creagh Interchange: Preston Campbell, Luke Douglas, Ben Cross, Clint Newton 18th man: Alan Tongue
City: Anthony Minichiello, Jarryd Hayne, Luke Lewis, Dean Collis, Hazem El Masri, Braith Anasta, Craig Gower, Jason King, Robbie Farah, Lance Thompson, Paul Gallen, Ryan Hoffman, Reece Williams Interchange: Craig Wing, Anthony Watmough, Bryce Gibbs, Ben Pomeroy 18th man: Mark Minichiello
7:05pm: Kickoff shortly after 7:30pm. Stay tuned!
7:35pm: Kickoff delayed. Crowd still moving into the ground, pre-match entertainment wrapping up now and the teams already warming up out on-field.
7:40pm: The teams back to the tunnel and now have run out in preparation for the start of play. Changes: Mark Minichiello (City) has been relegated to the bench, Craig Wing to start.
0 min: We're underway at Coffs Harbour!
6 min: Country on the attack and a high ball to El Masri's corner puts the pressure on, but he takes it perfectly and manages to streak away and diffuse the situation. City working away from their own line now.
29 min: Errors abound from both teams on the Country line with City heavy on the attack, three knock-ons in two minutes. Now as Country move out, Creagh is taken high by Collis and the Country boys get out of their own half on the back of a penalty.
36 min: INJURY: Brett Kimmorley down after a clash with Ryan Hoffman. No malice in the clash but it would appear it could be a neck injury. He is up and about but still being moved from the field - it would appear unlikely he will play again tonight.
A fairly even match so far, only difference being the try to City through consistent sets of six on the Country line midway through the half. Country had plenty of opportunities later in the half but none could convert to points.
Second half coming up shortly.
41 min: Both teams back and the second half underway. Country missing Kimmorley going in to the second half as the boys from Country aim to claw back from 6-0 down. City with first possession in the second half.
47 min: Country on the attack 10m out from the line - is this their chance?
61 min: TRY City The ground falls into silence as City crosses over the line through Ryan Hoffman and City look to take back their six point lead. The ground then falls into shock as the Conversion attempt by Hazem El Masri unsuccessful. City 12-6
67 min: Country forcing a repeat set after a heart-stopping fifth tackle movement almost cost Country points. Anthony Mincihiello rushes the ball dead and the Country side will have another go at scoring.
69 min: Another set for Country with constant pressure on the City defence which will surely break soon. Minichiello forced in goal this time, and forced to defend again. From the return set a City player knocks the ball down off a Country pass and they will get another chance at the line... surely they can cross now!
74 min: Sixth consecutive set now for the Country boys as they force El Masri to rush the ball dead. City absorbing an incredible amount of attack from the Country forwards and backs as they continue to keep them out. Country continue to attack...
76 min: Ben Cross drops the ball and Country's possession reign ends. City looking confident but if their energy levels drop in the final minutes we could see any result as we enter the last five minutes.
FULLTIME: City Origin 12 Country Origin 6 City have gotten home this year on the back of a sensational defensive effort. Country had numerous chances but the City defence simply never allowed for any points apart from a early second half try to Anthony Quinn. Still some question marks over Origin spots but some good performances from many players on both sides.