The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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In front of over 300 in the small Rhondda Valley town of Treorchy, Australia retained their unbeaten record in their UK leg of their Academic Ashes tour with a 38-10 win over Wales.
Australia took the lead in the sixth minute after an even early few minutes. Following Wales being penalised for holding down on the tackle, an excellent set of passes following the resulting penalty, allowed Steve Callum to superbly weave his way through the Welsh defence to ground in the corner. Gerard Parle kicked the tricky conversion.
Paddy Allendorpia looked to have increased the lead ten minutes later but was held up after he crossed the line, while Ali Kaurche was also denied a score, after being superbly tackled into touch by Cardiff Demons? Mark Dando.
But Kaurche did manage to ground in the 25th minute after forcing his way through three Welsh defenders.
Wales deservedly got on the board in the 32nd minute after not taking advantage of earlier opportunities to make their presence known. A fantastic 80-degree off-load from Dan Nelmes, found Sheffield Eagles? Pete Moore who ran 40 metres down the wing to score the try of the match. Matt Jackson converted to bring Wales within four points.
But the Australians went in with a 10-point lead at half-time after Kade Sutherland grounded on the right-hand corner and Ali Kaurche kicked the extras.
Wales narrowed the gap after only seven minutes of the second half. Following some early Australian pressure, Wales recovered to produce an excellent set of six culminating in another 40-metre run, this time from Aberavon?s Sean O?Brien after Newport?s Dan Nelmes provided the off-load.
Following an accurate Parle penalty, Australia further increased their lead with a controversial try in the 59th minute, Ryan Smith sliding in under the posts after it looked like Sam Williams pass to Kaurche in the lead-up was forward.
Parle?s 30-metre run just two minutes later put the Australians further ahead while they completed the scoring with two tries in the last five minutes.
First Sam Williams scored in the corner following the play-the-ball after Matt Jackson?s potentially try-saving tackle on Brett Spears then Kaurche grounded under the sticks in the final move of the game.
Wales showed plenty of promise and were never disgraced and with local junior schools, Parc Primary and Pen-yr-Renglyn playing a pre-match sevens game and Valley Cougars RLFC juniors providing the ball boys, the future of Rugby League in the valleys seems more and more secure.
?Obviously the result was disappointing,? commented Wales coach Wayne Williams, ?But the lads showed lots of commitment and will learn a lot from this top quality opposition. We will take these lessons away with us to use for next year?s World Cup.?
Wales: Matt Jackson, Sean O?Brien, Phil Carlton, Olly Green, Dan Nelme, Aled James, Pete Moore, Gareth Morgan, Joel Keen, Dewi Scourfield, Mark Dando, Matt Drew, Neil Davies. Subs: Dennis Pugh, Gavin Curry, Geraint Davies, Daniel ap Dafydd.
Tries: Moore (32), O?Brien (47)
Goals: Jackson 1/2
Australia: Brett Spears, Sam Williams, Jordan Atkins, Ali Kaurche, Steve Callum, Ryan Smith, Tony Morris, Mick Moore, Paddy Allendorpia, Jason Edmundson, Mick Green, Gerard Parle, Tony McFadden. Subs: Matt McKinnon, Kade Sutherland, Clint Loverine, Noel Attenborough.
Tries: Callum (6), Kaurche (25, 79), Sutherland (37), Smith (59), Parle (61), Williams (75)
Goals: Parle 4/7, Kaurche 1/1
Gamebreaker: Two tries and a penalty in five minutes midway through the second half put the game out of the reach of a plucky Welsh side.
Gamestar: Ryan Smith, who topped off a first class performance with a try.
Men of the Match: Wales: Matt Jackson. Australia: Ryan Smith.
Referee: Rev. Geoff Hilton (Manchester).