The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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Skolars? first run-out of the season with a large contingent of new faces saw them hold out for the final 20 minutes of the game to record a victory at Blackrock RFC defeating the Bulls by 20-18 . With the Bulls? side camped on the line for most of the last quarter, it was a performance that will have pleased the coaching duo Marcus Tobin and Alex Smits.
Skolars went into the lead in the fourth minute when Austen Aggrey pounced on an error by Karl Pryce to score in the corner, with Dean Callis scoring what turned out to be a valuable conversion. Aggrey was strong in defence as well, stopping Ryan Atkins close to the line after a good run from Matt Cook. Pryce made amends for his earlier error with a well judged chip kick to the wing that allowed Atkins to touchdown.
A Nathan Meischke intercept saw Skolars attack again, but Stuart Singleton?s pass out wide went forward . A nasty injury to Brad McFarland interrupted play for some time and the Skolars? half-back was rushed to hospital for an operation on what is a suspected broken elbow. Skolars scored just before the first break with a push thorugh try for Gareth Honor after Rubert Jonker had made good yards. The Bulls also lost a player when Karl Pryce went off with a shoulder injury.
Bradford levelled the score at the start of the second quarter with Matt Cook showing some impressive strength, with Brett Ferres adding the conversion. Debutant Nathan Gee put the Skolars into the lead again on the half hour, but it was the Bulls that finished the first half stronger moving the ball out wide for Richard Johnson to pace through the defence.
Johnson gave Bradford the lead for the only time in the game shortly after the restart with a good run down the wing for the second of the game, but the Londoners bounced back quickly with another try for Austen Aggrey after Rubert Jonkers had again brought them close to the line.
With both sides ringing the changes in the final quarter, it was a tense affair with both sides making unforced errors. Skolars failed to kick to touch a couple of times, allowing the Bulls to keep on the attack. Richard Johnson created a number of gaps, but the support play saw the ball go to ground under Skolars? pressure. A grubber from Ferres saw a good chase from Paul Clarke but just went dead. A 40-20 kick from Huy Le finally relieved the pressure to the delight of the Skolars? contingent. For the Bulls, it will have been a useful test of nerve for several of the youngsters and an important day in terms if raising media profile over in Ireland with the game being covered on both television and radio. With the Bulls trialling three Irish players and the Skolars one in the game, it will have done much to encourage Rugby League Ireland, with the vast majority of the 425 crowd being locals.
Skolars T: Aggrey (4, 48), Honor (19), Tim Gee (30), G Callis, Pittman
Bulls Select T:Atkins (8), Cook (23), Richard Johnson (35,45)
Teams (all subs used)
London Skolars 1 Dean Callis 2 Austen Aggrey 3 Stuart Singleton 4 Brett Blaker 5 Tony Sissons 6 Brad McFarland 7 Nathan Meschke 8 Rubert Jonker 9 Gareth Honor 10 Toby Hall 11 Troy O?Shea 12 Richard Singleton 13 Ben Joyce
14 Ciaran Hill 15 Richard Pollard 16 Joe Price 17 Oran D?Arcy 18 Tim Gee 19 Huy le 20 Wayne Parillon 21 Kurt Pittman 22 Nathan Gee 23 Mike Castle 24 Keir Bell
14 Declan Foy