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Determined Country grab thrilling victory

Matthew Trodden

Spurred on by a vocal crowd of over 8,000, Country grabbed a last ditch victory over City in this year’s Country vs City Origin match. A try in the 80th minute to Newcastle winger Akuila Uate sealed the memorable 18-12 win for the home side, who had led 6-4 at half time.

Country coach Laurie Daley was full of praise for his side after the game, saying that they fought right until the final whistle to win the game.

“You’ve got to be prepared to tough it out in and be there when the game is on the line to win,” Daley said.

“That’s what good teams do, and at representative level that’s what excellent teams do.”

Whilst he didn’t single any players out for NSW Origin selection, Daley said that he would be happy to push any of them with the selectors.

“I was very proud of my boys, the whole seventeen of them,” he said.

“The improvement and preparation that they have put in this week has been first class.”

“The whole seventeen, if given an opportunity, wouldn’t let anyone down.”
Captain Glenn Stewart, who was singled out for praise by Daley, said that the tight-knit nature of the group helped them gain the win in the end.

“When we came in (to camp) we just got on really well, and even Hinchy (Ryan Hinchcliffe) came in two days late, and just fitted in like he’d been there from the start,” Stewart said.

The game began after much excitement and anticipation from both camps, with City starting off with a bang, getting in the face of the Country boys and testing the back three with plenty of high balls. On the back of this and plenty of possession and field position, Beau Champion scored on the right edge for City in the 11th minute, but with Nathan Merritt unable to convert, they led 4-0.

The tide started to turn after the try though, as Country fought back, and started to gain some momentum. After testing City out under the high ball all night, it was finally successful in the 22nd minute, with Michael Gordon challenging Jarayd Hayne, and grabbing the ball from his grasp to slide over on the left side. A well struck conversion from Jamie Soward saw the Country boys take a 6-4 lead.

Only desperate scramble defence from the City boys over the next few sets prevented another Country try, but some uncharacteristic mistakes in their own half brought City back into the game. The momentum swung once again, as the kicking games of halfbacks Jarrod Mullen and Mitchell Pearce started to decide the flow of the game. City had one last opportunity on the stroke of half time, but some good cover defence from Soward stopped the dangerous Michael Jennings in his tracks.

Both sides came out in the second half fired up, with Country prop Tom Learoyd-Lars coming up with some bullocking runs, and big hits. Jamie Soward lit the game up with a sparkling run in the 45th minute, breaking through and running 30 metres before being stopped by Hayne. After missing one good opportunity in attack, Country was made to pay when on the back of an error and a penalty City crossed through Hayne in the right corner. Merritt’s conversion was unsuccessful, and City took an 8-6 lead.

Despite a shoulder injury to Beau Champion, City broke through again, with Simon Dwyer again crossing on the right side, on the back of a Country mistake. Another unsuccessful conversion from Merritt left the score at 12-6 to City, but kept the Country boys in the fight.

A forward pass call against City turned the momentum of the game again, with Country gaining some repeat sets on the back of a spectacular short kicking game from both Soward and Mullen. A fifth tackle penalty gave Country another set, and Ryan Hinchcliffe took advantage in the 66th minute scrambling over from dummy half after pushing away from 3 defenders. Michael Gordon converted from the left of the posts to level the scores at 12-12, and Country was back in the box seat to win.

As the clock wound down and the game tightened, Josh Dugan came up with a big play, pushing away from Kris Keating and sprinting 40 metres downfield before grubbering behind Hayne, who cleaned it up, but not before being forced back in-goal by Dugan. From the ensuing set, Jarrod Mullen swung a field goal attempt to the left of the posts, before Mitchell Pearce took a 40 metre attempt, but without success. Mullen came agonisingly close in the 79th minute, hitting the cross bar from 35 metres.

As the game came to a close, Hayne stepped up to try and win it for City, chipping over the top, but it was cleaned up by Chris Houston, who offloaded to the flying Akuila Uate, who sprinted 50 metres to win the game for Country.

In the Under 18s Regional Championship Final, the Western Rams defeated the Newcastle Rebels 38-10, grabbing the Tom Nelson Shield.

Check www.facebook.com/crlnsw for all the action photos from the game!

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