ICYMI, on Thursday the @NRL - National Rugby League released the 2018 #NRLDraw.
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The Lancashire side was without the injured skipper Farrell, and lost Chris Joynt earlier in the day with food poisoning. Deacon came in to partner Sculthorpe in the half backs, and Sinfield moved up to his preferred loose forward position. Noble also made changes, with a daring throw of the dice in an attempt to level the series. He moved Leon Pryce up to stand-off, with Richard Horne taking over at full back. Gilmour moved into the centres, and Karl Pratt was relegated to the bench. Rhinos 'pocket rocket' Rob Burrow was left out of the seventeen, and could be seen kicking water bottles around the billiard table Headingley turf, prior to kick-off.
The teams kicked off bathed in fantastic evening sunshine, and it wasn't long before the first action. On three minutes, Fozzard was carrying the ball from the Yorkshire line when tackled by Sculthorpe and McDermott. McDermott headbutted his skipper in the tackle and Scully was escorted, wobbling on his feet, off the pitch. He wouldn't return. The loss of the skipper didn't effect the red rose county much, and within a minute they had taken the lead. Lucky to get away with a knock-on, Radlinski was put over next to the posts. Deacon goaled for 6 - 0.
On fourteen minutes, Yorkshire were denied a try after the video referee ruled a ball steal by Senior, it was to be the closest that the home side would come to registering first half points. A minute after being denied, Yorkshire watched the opposition score. On the last tackle, the ball was moved out wide and the winger, Donlan, came back inside to go through a gap. Deacon kicked the two. On twenty minutes, Noble tried to change things as he replaced Farrell and Diskin with Pratt and King, it didn't work.
On twenty-eight minutes, Briers and Stankevitch combined to put Wellens over, who despite crossing on his back, placed the ball above his head to score. Six minutes later and a missed tackle by King allowed Terry Newton to crash over for a simple try and when four minutes later Alker put Johnson through a gap, it was almost game over for a 'shell shocked' Yorkshire. Deacon goaled all tries in the half, and Lancashire had a well deserved 30 - 0 lead at half time. Yorkshire had played reasonably for the first fifteen minutes, but capitulated in the remaining twenty-five.
Many of the Yorkshire fans must have wanted to go home at half-time, the cause was lost. The South Stand even answered the half time announcers question 'Can Yorkshire come back and win this?' with an empahtic 'No!', it was a lost cause.
But something happened at half time, and whatever it was, it would turn the game on its head. Both sides played 'cat and mouse' for the first ten minutes of the second half, with Yorkshire probably having the better of the play. Then on fifty minutes, there was the slightest glimmer of hope for Yorkshire. Keith Senior collected the ball on the half way line and set off on a run down the wing. He evaded two tackles, and sompleted a fifty metre run by rounding under the posts to make Danny Orrs' (on at half time for Horne) kick a formality. It was a glimmer that would tun into a bolt of lightening over the coming fifteen minutes.
Three minutes after Seniors try, Orr stepped past a woeful Lancashire defence and drew the full back before releasing Diskin to cross under the posts. And just three minutes after that, Diskin got his second. This time he collected the ball some two metres from the line, after a fast Andy Hay play-the-ball. He dove past the markers and over the line. Orr converted both of these tries and Yorks were back at 18 - 30.
With twenty minutes remaining, Karl Pratt got in on the act with the try of the night (amongst many worthy contenders). He collected the ball some ten metres inside his own half, and set off on a run which involved busting tackles and palming off tacklers. He crossed under the sticks and Orr goaled. Yorkshire were within one converted try of the old enemy.
On sixty-three minutes, Orr put up a high kick on the last. Senior went up for it and palmed it back to Gilmour who moved it to Pratt on the wing. Pratt avoided the winger and crossed for his second in three minutes, equalling Rhinos team mate Matt Diskins earlier feat. Orr neede to goal to level the scores, but failed with a difficult attempt from the touchline.
With seventeen minutes left, Yorkshire went hunting the killer try, but as time wore on, they became increasingly desperate. On seventy-two minutes they stretched themselves too far, and allowed Stankevitch through the gap to strike Lancashires own killer blow. Deacon goaled and Lancashire managed to hold on to the final hooter to win the game by 36 - 28, and the series by 2 - 0.
This was another great game, although it hadn't looked like it would be at half time. Yorkshires second half fightback was nothing less than sensational, and whatever Noble said at half time should be transcribed into the coaching manuals. Yorkshire were equally as good in the second half as Lancashire had been in the first. Some defensive lapses in the first half cost Yorkshire dear, as they tried to scramble back just too many points.
There were many positives out of this series. The team spirit, the atmosphere, and most refreshingly the closeness of two games which, on paper, looked as though they would be Lancashire walkovers.
Hopefully Origin is here to stay - I'm already looking forward to next year.