STATE of Origin I New South Wales Blues 17 v Queensland Maroons 16at Telstra StadiumReferee: Sean HampsteadMatch Summary:In one of the more bizarre Origin clashes since it's beginnings in 1980, the 26th year of the format has kicked off with New South Wales claiming the first game in a nailbiter. The game finished with unlikely hero Brett Finch, rushed into the team at the eleventh hour after Craig Gower pulled up injured, kicking a match-winning field goal.The Blues dominated Queensland for the entire first 40 minutes. Errors plagued the men from the north as NSW took advantage of poor defence and managed to score three tries before the break, first through Finch, who ran off a sensational break by King and then received the ball from Tahu, eventually scoring. King then crossed out wide after some sensational passing, and the Blues seemed on their way.Willie Mason, one of NSW's best, then rampaged through a few Maroon defenders, and with Hodgson finally potting a conversion after missing two earlier attempts, the home side held a commanding 14-0 lead, which they took to halftime.The halftime break was over and things looked much the same with an early Queensland error giving the NSW side another early chance. However, nothing too threatening came of it, or any plays from either side, until the 53rd minute, when the obligatory Queensland fightback began with a try to Greg Inglis.Ten minutes later, NSW kicked a penalty goal - a decision viewed as bizarre by many, but ultimately saved them. Then, with eight minutes remaining, Queensland winger Inglis completed a double, and after a miss out wide for halfback Johnathon Thurston, the gap was six and an incredible finish was set-up.A few dubious penalties and a couple of silly errors allowed Queensland ample field position late in the game. This ultimately led a great try in the corner to Maroons centre Steve Bell. Thurston kicked a great conversion to level the scores, and for all intents and purposes, yet another Origin game was heading to Golden Point.With two minutes remaining, NSW somehow ended up with field position. And out of all people - Brett Finch, maligned by many, a last-minute inclusion in the Blues side, capped one of his finest games by kicking a match winning field goal from more than 30 metres out. Queensland had one final chance after a Blues drop ball, but moved the ball in the wrong direction.In the end, NSW's best came from Mason, Finch, Anasta and Mark O'Meley. Inglis and Matt Bowen had great games for Queensland, while Thurston improved greatly after the halftime break. The only major injury news to come from either camp was rumoured torn ligaments in the hand of NSW and Cowboys lock Luke O'Donnell, who may miss a number of weeks.NSW now lead the series 1-0, with the return match in Brisbane on June 14, followed by the series decide at Melbourne's Telstra Dome on July 5.Scorers:New South Wales: 17Tries: Matt King, Brett Finch, Willie MasonGoals: Brett Hodgson 2/4Field Goals: Brett FinchQueensland: 16Tries: Greg Inglis(2), Steve BellGoals: Jonathon Thurston 2/3Crowd: 72,773By the Clock:State of Origin 2006 is here. Plenty of selection and injury drama within the NSW Camp. Their lineup changes from the program, and is as follows:1 Hodgson 2 King 3 Gasnier 4 Tahu 5 Grothe 6 Anasta 20 Finch 8 Mason 9 Buderus 10 Kite 17 Ryan 12 Hindmarsh 13 O'Donnell, with the bench of 11 Simpson 14 Wing 15 Menzies 16 O'Meley.Finch comes in for the injured Gower, whilst Buderus is taking the field. Ryan swaps his bench spot for Steve Simpson, and will start in the second row.Queensland side is as per program 1-17.NSW to take the field very soon. The jersey numbers are black for the first time for the home side, as opposed to the traditional white. Final pep talks happening now, the atmosphere is building...Queensland led out onto Telstra Stadium by Darren Lockyer, their captain - the fierce Blue crowd boos the boys from the north.Buderus, NSW captain, leads the Blues out. Telstra Stadium explodes in blue.The anthem has been sung....0 min: NEWS We are underway, Queensland with the first set. A shocking kick is then dropped by Gasnier who jumped in with King getting the ball. QLD on the attack after 1 min.4 min: NEWS NSW squash QLD's attempts at the line through some good work by Hodgson. At the end of their following set, Anasta gets a good kick in.Queensland now with a penalty after Mason plays around in the play-the-ball.6 min: NEWS NSW's great defence shines through again and they return the ball. Some superb hits, particularly from Cowboy Luke O'Donnell for the Blues.7 min: NEWS An early interchange for NSW. O'Donnell off, Menzies on into Lock.9 min: NEWS Mason called out for a high shot, although very dubious, looked to be around Thurston's upper chest. QLD on the attack again. Tackle not on report.10 min: TRY New South WalesFinch scores after a QLD error on the attack - King runs away down the sideline, turns it inside, the ball eventually coming to the halfback. Conversion for Brett Hodgson is unsuccessful. NSW 4-015 min: NEWS Finch and Anasta defying critics with sensational kicking games. Blues heavy on the attack after forcing a repeat set.17 min: TRY New South WalesSome great work with fast passing to the right puts Matty King in the corner. Hodgson's kick again not easy, it goes wide again. NSW 8-022 min: TRY New South WalesTry to Willie Mason, he runs over the top of a number of Queensland defender before scoring in an easy spot for Hodgson to convert, which he does. NSW 14-030 min: NEWS NSW simply dominating so far. Queensland have had few attacking opportunities but never really looked like crossing.Mason is interchanged off, but looks like he's coming straight back on.34 min: NEWS Mason replaces Hindmarsh and NSW are heavy on the attack again. A blue-wash is on the cards the way Queensland is playing at the moment.39 min: NEWS Halftime approaches and QLD come close to scoring before the wing defence of Hodgson and Grothe throws Bell in touch.The siren sounds and we're at the break.HALFTIMENew South Wales 14 lead Queensland 0.The home side is dominating every facet of the game at the moment, and Queensland are coming up with little in way of answers. Finch and Anasta have surprised thus far with their kicking games, while Bowen has been one shining light in an otherwise dull and worn-looking Maroon outfit. The defence from the boys in blue has been sensational thus far in front of this 75,000-odd crowd. Possession is exactly 50%-50% and the tackles only differ by 2, Queensland making 141 to NSW 139.Second half underway soon.Teams back on the park now... get ready for the second half. Can Queensland come back?41 min: NEWS Second half has begun in Origin I, 200641 min: NEWS QLD error from the NSW downfield kick.Blues heavy on the attack already.42 min: NEWS Chance diffused after some silly play, but QLD drop the ball as well and it's back to NSW right on the line, attacking and offloading like it's the 80th minute and they're down by 2...43 min: NEWS Wing puts a kick in on the last but it rolls dead and the pressure finally off the visitors. QLD making easy metres from the ensuing set, actually looking threatening.46 min: NEWS QLD on the attack now, plenty of opportunity here. Ultimately no result as Murray's men return the ball, but Mason drops it and now Queensland have the ball ready to score.49 min: NEWS - INJURY: Luke O'Donnell looks to be gone for the game - fractured thumb.51 min: NEWS Queensland penalty after some biff between Hodges and Grothe. Maroons attacking 30m out.52 min: NEWS Greg Inglis in... or not. Video Ref is being referred to. DECISION PENDING... TRY!53 min: TRY QueenslandInglis scores in the corner for Queensland and the Maroons finally get on the scoreboard. Thurston from the sideline... converts! NSW 14-659 min: NEWS Queensland starting to get on top of things now, only trailing by 8, and NSW not threatening too much when with the ball.63 min: PENALTY GOAL New South WalesA Brett Hodgson penalty is put over the crossbar.72,773 is the official crowd figure. NSW 16-665 min: NEWS Video Ref decision for a Matt King try... Decision Pending... NO TRY. Gasnier's effort goes to waste but Inglis on his Melbourne team-mate King in defence has cost them a try. Queensland ball.72 min: TRY QueenslandA sensational finish on it's way as Inglis goes in after a silly NSW error. Thurston from again the corner... his kick is wide. Six points in it now with eight minutes to go. NSW 16-1075 min: NEWS Queensland heavy on the attack following another Blues error by Grothe. Nailbiting stuff here!76 min: NEWS Ball handed over, but now the touchies are in, alleged kick and punch. Queensland handed the penalty after Buderus was kicked in the head an retaliated! Controversy here!76 min: NEWS Video Ref - possible Steve Bell try for the Maroons. DECISION PENDING... TRY!77 min: TRY QueenslandBell scores in the corner of the ensuing set. It's now up to Thurston to convert... he... CONVERTS!!!! 16 all.78 min: NEWS Blues on the attack!79 min: FIELD GOAL New South WalesFIELD GOAL! BRETT FINCH!BLUES LEAD BY ONE! One minute left. He has quite possibly won the game for the Blues. NSW 17-1680 min: NEWS NSW drop it with 25 seconds to go in Field goal position for Queensland! Tension is incredible!AND THAT... is the game. Queensland unable to kick the field goal after running the short side from the scrum. New South Wales win Origin I by a single point - Brett Finch the hero.FULLTIMENew South Wales 17 defeat Queensland 16.In a truly unbelievable finish, Brett Finch has kicked the Blues home to a one point victory. Finch and Anasta had excellent kicking games in the first and some of the second half. Mason was outstanding for the Blues also, while Inglis and Bowen were shining lights in Queensland's efforts to claw back. Great work by Queensland to get back to level scores with minutes to go. Queensland did turn things around, but were close to pitiful in the first half. The Blues, however, need to scurb up for a full 80 minutes. Stay tuned on June 14 for Origin II, live on LeagueUnlimited from Suncorp Stadium.-----------------------------------------Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Brett Finch2 - Willie Mason1 - Greg Inglis-----------------------------------------
AS a fan of Rugby League I can?t wait for State of Origin time to grace my fridge magnet calendar every year. You come to embrace all the hype and expectation surrounding the contest and sometimes that masks the underlying form of either side that is set to take the field. And I think that?s what we have before us as NSW and QLD prepare themselves for the first confrontation in 2006. Whilst Queensland has been quietly going about their business it would appear that New South Wales are in real trouble. Or are they?The BacklineWith Matt Cooper ruled out fairly early on, Parramatta winger Eric Grothe has filled the void with a minimum of fuss. This leaves us with some doubts over the fitness of Timana Tahu, who is under a slight injury cloud but should play. Luke Lewis is on standby should anything go wrong, but I hear he?s been ruled too sick to take the field. The word is Adam MacDougall is next in line. The Maroons would have enjoyed watching it all unravel as it takes the focus away from a relatively inexperienced backline where whiz kid Greg Inglis and the sturdy Steve Bell take part in their first Origin match. But if ever I?ve seen two guys ready for Origin, it?s them. I?ll bet Bell will swap around with Tate at various points in the game and the same goes for Inglis and Bowen at fullback.Speaking of fullbacks, Hodgson makes his return at this level after having been rag-dolled by Big Gordie way back in 2002. The custodians are renowned attacking players but they are small and a little vulnerable at the back.The HalvesThe halves are the most mystifying piece of the jigsaw, yet we have a similar trend to the problem in the backs. Craig Gower is spending Tuesday night in hospital after a knee injury suffered at training, turning the no. 7 jersey into a case of last man standing ? literally. If Gower can?t play, the next logical choice was Orford who apparently has a leg injury. Kimmorley is still a little dusty with his ankle problem and not seen as an alternative. So the only other halfback running around with Origin experience is Brett Finch who just happens to be Anasta?s clubmate and they?re not exactly setting the world on fire.It?s a different story in the Maroons camp though, with Queensland duo Darren Lockyer and Johnathan Thurston in form and ready to fire. Both men have been in tremendous touch at club level and will be hard to stop. In fact you?d have to think they?re a real chance of running riot and blowing the match apart.The ForwardsQueensland will be minus the mongrel of Michael Crocker and the power of Ben Ross but have still managed to put a solid pack together for the opening game. Price and Civoniceva up front offer a steady hand as the Maroons front row tries to contain or perhaps dominate the Blues. Whilst I revere Willie Mason for what he has achieved this season, I have my concerns over Brent Kite. He may have played at this level before but he?s not the kind of guy I?d want in the opening exchanges.NSW have a clear experience advantage in the backrow however, with Hindmarsh, Simpson and O?Donnell all having graced this stage before. They should be able to win the battle on the fringes of the ruck but it won?t be easy. Even though the Queensland backrow of Stagg, Scott and Johnson are rookies they?re not mugs and there?s a reason they?ve been selected ? they can play footy. It could get a little loose out there and we might see a few big hits as well.The other significant factor is hooker. Buderus is a likely starter but there is still a bit of doubt there with Priddis on standby. If the Blues' captain doesn?t take the field it will be a huge setback. Smith for Queensland is another player in form and he?ll test the NSW pack as they tire late in each half.The BenchAs is the case these days it?s a 17-man game and the blokes on the sidelines will have a significant impact to the outcome of the match. Everyone?s jumping up and down about how good the NSW bench is though, but I just don?t see it. Wing isn?t playing his best footy and if the starting forwards can?t get on top it will detract from the impact of O?Meley. Menzies and Ryan have both been there before but they?re more toilers of the game than anything else and I?m not convinced they?ll do anything special.We all sat around and scratched our heads at the selection of Shaun Berrigan and fair enough. But why? Because we don?t know why he?s there, right? I?m not sure Graham Murray does either. The guy is versatile if anything and I think they were searching for the closest thing they could find to Wing for NSW. If there?s an injury he?ll cover better than Wing as well. The rest of the Queensland bench offers plenty of impact with Webb and Thaiday sure to explode upon deployment and Myles providing reliable go forward when required.The CoachesMal Meninga and Graham Murray each assume the reigns for the first time.Meninga has a chequered career in coaching leading the Raiders for five years with mixed results. He was able to extract some good footy out of them but also some average stuff as well. They made the semi?s 3 out of 5 years under his leadership so he must have done something right.Murray clearly has the superior record at club level and can boast two Grand Final appearances. He also coaches Bowen, Thurston, Webb and Scott each week so he?ll have a fair idea of how to stop them.In my opinion though, Murray has it all to lose. Queensland is yet to win at this ground and it?s only a matter of time before they break their duck.The Alpha MaleMy tip for best on ground is Queensland hooker Cameron Smith. I like the cut of his jib and he?s got everything you need in a rake: good service, runs when he should and can kick.Verdict:With the weather in Sydney raining over the past couple of days you would have to think that advantages the Blues. They can adapt to a flatter style of attack and minimise handling errors. But I?m very worried about the fractured build-up they?ve had. Every day we hear about a new player getting injured or on the verge of being ruled out of the squad. On the flipside, this could serve to bring them closer as a group and solidify their camp.The Maroons have no issues to speak of which in some ways makes them the favourites, even though they?re travelling in the first game and have seven debutants. If they?re given that tag I don?t think they?ll wear it with pride and they could look a bit uneasy. I think they?ll give it a real shake, but I can?t take them in this first game. I think they need to play together first and get a feel for the team before they can win a game.Blues by a nose.League Unlimited PredictionsStarkers ? NSW by 4Legend ? Queensland by 14Willow ? Queensland by 1Rammo ? NSW by 14Warrick - NSW by 4Dilmah - NSW by 8Timmah - NSW by 2Noyd - NSW by 22Bartman - QLD by 4Twizzle - NSW by 10
REPRESENTATIVE Prop Luke Bailey and back rower Corey Payne will return from suspension and injury for the Dragons clash with the Knights at Energy Australia Stadium this Friday.Bailey will start in the front row, Michael Henderson moving to the bench having started last match. Payne will also to come from the interchange.The Dragons will be looking for a much improved performance on their Round 5 efforts when they were soundly defeated 54-6 at WIN Stadium by the Knights.Unavailable Dragons are: Jason Ryles (Hand), Mathew Head (Knee), Wes Naiqama (Ankle), Ashton Sims (Wrist) and Matt Cooper (Hamstring).NRL ROUND 12, 2006St George Illawarra Dragons v Newcastle Knights7:30pm Friday 26 May EnergyAustralia StadiumDragons teamCoach: Nathan Brown 1. Clint GREENSHIELDS2. Colin BEST3. Mark GASNIER4. Daryl MILLARD5. Brett MORRIS6. Trent BARRETT (c)7. Ben HORNBY8. Luke BAILEY9. Aaron GORRELL10. Justin POORE11. Ben CREAGH12. Dean YOUNG13. Shaun TIMMINS14. Michael HENDERSON15. Matt BICKERSTAFF16. Corey PAYNE17. Danny WICKS-Dragons MediaKnights teamKurt Gidley, Brian Carney, Matthew Gidley, George Carmont, Brad Tighe, Jarrod Mullen, Andrew Johns (c), Craig Smith, Danny Buderus, Adam Woolnough, Steve Simpson, Todd Lowrie, Reegan Tanner. Interchange: Luke Davico, Kirk Reynoldson, Josh Perry, Riley Brown.-AAP
FRIDAY, 26th May 2006Newcastle v St George Illawarra at EnergyAustralia Stadium, 7.30pmKnights: Kurt Gidley, Brian Carney, Matthew Gidley, George Carmont, Brad Tighe, Jarrod Mullen, Andrew Johns (c), Craig Smith, Danny Buderus, Adam Woolnough, Steve Simpson, Todd Lowrie, Reegan TannerInterchange: Luke Davico, Kirk Reynoldson, Josh Perry, Riley BrownDragons: Clint Greenshields, Colin Best, Mark Gasnier, Daryl Millard, Brett Morris, Trent Barrett (c), Ben Hornby, Luke Bailey, Aaron Gorrell, Justin Poore, Ben Creagh, Dean Young, Shaun TimminsInterchange: Michael Henderson, Matt Bickerstaff, Corey Payne, Danny WicksReferee: Tony ArcherSaturday, 27th May 2006North Queensland v Canberra at Dairy Farmers Stadium, 5.30pmCowboys: Matt Bowen, Brenton Bowen, Ashley Graham, Paul Bowman, Matt Sing, Justin Smith, Johnathan Thurston, Matthew Scott, Aaron Payne, Carl Webb, Steve Southern, Luke O'Donnell, Travis Norton (c)Interchange: Rod Jensen, David Faiumu, Mitchell Sargent, Shane Tronc, Gavin Cooper (one to be omitted)Raiders: Clinton Schifcoske (c), Craig Frawley, Phil Graham, Adam Mogg, David Howell, Todd Carney, Lincoln Withers, Andrew Lomu, Simon Woolford, Troy Thompson, Thom Learoyd-Lars, Jason Croker, Alan TongueInterchange: Marshall Chalk, Ben Jones, Michael Hodgson, Jason Williams, Terry Martin, Alan Rothery (two to be omitted)Referee: Gavin BadgerBrisbane v Canterbury at Suncorp Stadium, 7.30pmBroncos: Karmichael Hunt, Tame Tupou, Justin Hodges, Brent Tate, Darius Boyd, Darren Lockyer (c), Shane Perry, Brad Thorn, Casey McGuire, Petero Civoniceva, David Stagg, Corey Parker, Tonie CarrollInterchange: Greg Eastwood, Ben Hannant, Sam Thaiday, Shaun Berrigan, Brett Seymour (one to be omitted)Bulldogs: Luke Patten, Hazem El Masri, Sonny Bill Williams, Willie Tonga, Cameron Phelps, Daniel Holdsworth, Brent Sherwin, Mark O'Meley, Corey Hughes, Roy Asotasi, Willie Mason, Andrew Ryan (c), Tony GrimaldiInterchange: Reni Maitua, Chris Armit, Brad Morrin, Nate MylesReferee: Steve ClarkCronulla v New Zealand at Toyota Park, 7.30pmSharks: David Simmons, Darren Albert, Nigel Vagana, Phil Bailey, Luke Covell, Brett Kearney, Brett Kimmorley (c), James Stosic, Kevin Kingston, Luke Douglas, Reece Williams, Greg Bird, Paul GallenInterchange: Richard Villasanti, Matt Hilder, Beau Scott, Tony Caine, Hutch Maiava (one to be omitted)Warriors: Brent Webb, Manu Vatuvei, Tony Martin, Simon Mannering, Misi Taulapapa, Jerome Ropati, Grant Rovelli, Ruben Wiki, Nathan Fien, Steve Price (c), Awen Guttenbeil, Wairangi Koopu, Sione FaumuinaInterchange: George Gatis, Evarn Tuimavave, Louis Anderson, Micheal Luck, Sam Rapira (one to be omitted)Referee: Ben CumminsSunday, 28th May 2006Melbourne v Penrith at Olympic Park, 2.30pmStorm: Greg Inglis, Matt Geyer, Matt King, Jake Webster, Steve Turner, Scott Hill, Cooper Cronk, Garrett Crossman, Cameron Smith, Brett White, David Kidwell, Ryan Hoffman, Dallas JohnsonInterchange: Ian Donnelly, Jeremy Smith, Antonio Kaufusi, Nathan FriendPanthers: Rhys Wesser, Michael Gordon, Danny Galea, Luke Lewis, Luke Rooney, Preston Campbell, Craig Gower, Joel Clinton, Luke Priddis, Matthew Cross, Frank Pritchard, Tony Puletua (c), Trent WaterhouseInterchange: Frank Puletua, Craig Stapleton, Matthew Bell, Paul Aiton, Lee Hookey (one to be omitted)Referee: Shayne HayneParramatta v Sydney at Parramatta Stadium, 3pmEels: Joel Reddy, Jarryd Hayne, Brett Delaney, Timana Tahu, Eric Grothe, John Morris, Jeremy Smith, Fuifui Moimoi, PJ Marsh, Paul Stringer, Nathan Hindmarsh, Chad Robinson, Glenn MorrisonInterchange: Mark Riddell, Dean Widders, Daniel Wagon, Michael Vella, Luke O'Dwyer (one to be omitted)Roosters: Amos Roberts, Sam Perret, Ryan Cross, Iosia Soliola, Vince Mellars, Braith Anasta, Brett Finch, Adrian Morley, Craig Wing, David Shillington, Nigel Plum, Craig Fitzgibbon (c), Ashley HarrisonInterchange: Jamie Soward, Anthony Tupou, Chris Flannery, Lopini Paea, John Doyle, Setaimata Sa, Heath L'Estrange (three to be omitted)Referee: Sean HampsteadSouth Sydney v Wests at Telstra Stadium, 3pmRabbitohs: Todd Polglase, Luke MacDougall, John Sutton, Adam MacDougall, Nathan Merritt, Ben Rogers, Joe Williams, Peter Cusack (c), Shane Walker, Manase Manuokafoa, David Faalogo, Joe Galuvao, Mark MinichielloInterchange: Jaiman Lowe, Shannan McPherson, Stuart Webb, Shane RigonTigers: Brett Hodgson (c), Taniela Tuiaki, Dean Collis, Paul Whatuira, Shane Elford, Benji Marshall, Scott Prince, Ryan O'Hara, Robbie Farah, John Skandalis, Anthony Laffranchi, Todd Payten, Jamaal LolesiInterchange: Chris Heighington, Dene Halatau, Bryce Gibbs, Keith Galloway, Bronson Harrison (one to be omitted)Referee: Paul SimpkinsThe Manly Sea Eagles have the bye in Round 12.