The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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The conditions ahead of kickoff were cold and wet underfoot, and both sides took their time settling into the game. No doubt the constant drizzle accentuated the calamity of errors which averaged one per minute in the opening five minutes. After the nerves had settled the game got under way and both sides employed similar tactics, opting to test the midfield defence with bruising runs. Within 6 minutes Ireland were camped on Scotland?s 5metre line and Barrie McDermott almost set up Simon Finnegan but Finnegan couldn?t collect the offload.
Scotlands ?rush? defence looked to be working but as is typical with that particular tactic, a lazy defender can mean the difference in success and failure. As luck would have it, Irealand would be there to exploit the defence as Karl Fitzpatrick picked up a neat inside switch to score 5m from touch. Gareth Haggerty made an immediate impact when he came on with 15 minutes gone, typical of his style he punched the ball up and almost managed a single handed breach of the Scottish line, but was held up just inches short.
Scotland looked good on the counter but they seemed to be lacking pace out wide. Their play was somewhat one dimensional with the crash ball up the middle. In their third phase in the Irish half, and against the run of play, they opted to try and release the right wing however it was an ever alert Karl Fitzpatrick who intercepted the Scottish pass and made 60 metres before offloading to Dean Gaskell who made no mistake by scoring under the posts, Paul Handforth slotted home the conversion to give Ireland a 10-0 lead going into the interval
From the restart, Scotland stamped their intent and the Irish were in for a torrid time in defence. Ryan MacDonald who was called into the Scotland squad at late notice certainly made his presence felt, with bone crunching runs from the middle of the field into the heart of the Irish defence. The Irish were forced to soak up a serious amount of punishment as their defensive line was battered. Camped well inside the Irish half for the majority of the second half, Scotland failed to capitalise on a number of opportunities. Jon Steel looked like scoring for Scotland after 50 minutes when he picked up a neat crossfield kick, but on this occasion the bounce would beat him. Then on 58 minutes, the home side attempted a chip and chase, but once again the ball ended up going dead. Phil Purdue entered the affray in the second half, and the big Dubliner made an instant impact carrying the ball for 10 metres right through the centre of the Scottish defence. With little respite, the Irish defence was once again subjected to continued bombardment, but the wise heads of Barrie McDermott and skipper Terry O?Connor ensured the Irish remained cool under pressure, opting to employ kicking tactics to keep the Scots at bay. On 68 minutes, the flying winger Dean Gaskell made a scything break from out wide. Working his way infield he evaded four defenders before being brought down in front of the posts. A Scottish infringement at the play-of-the-ball meant Ireland were given a penalty. Limerick man Billy Treacy, from the Treaty City Titians stepped up to slot home the penalty giving Ireland a 12-0 lead going into the final 10 minutes.
However Scotland were far from finished and their persistent efforts were rewarded in the dying minutes of the game when Dave McConnell breached the Irish line to score a fine individual try. Gareth Morton made no mistake with the conversion to leave the final score at 6-12 in favour of the Irish.