Sunday, August 21, 2016

Northern Ireland claim historic first rugby league series win over Republic

from Rugby League Ireland

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On a wet and windy day the Northern Ireland Elks showed their mettle to not only win an absorbing game but to also take rugby league’s McGettigans State of Origin series for the very first time.

Northern Ireland held a narrow four-point win from game one of the series in Galway – their first ever win over the Republic in a State of Origin match. And the Elks grounded the Eagles again in game two at Portadown RFC on Saturday, to make history.

Despite a red-hot start, the Eagles trailed for the vast majority of the game before they rallied and gave themselves a shot at glory before time ran out on them.

The Eagles kicked off and were immediately in good field position due to a knock on and followed this up with an excellent burst by Simon Deevy to score a try under the posts, which was converted by Peter O’Neill.

This spurred the Elks into action and soon after they were level as Connor Phillips scooted through the defence to score close to the sticks and Adam Doherty added the extras. Both sides then tested each other over the first half hour of the game before the Elks began their assault on the scoreboard.

Good work from Phillips put Doherty over out wide on the left but he couldn’t add the conversion but Doherty then added more points when he caught the Eagles defence by surprise by latching onto his own chip and he added the conversion to send the Elks in ten points up at the break.

The second half saw an upping of the intensity by both sides and this lead to mistakes being made and tempers flaring so it was no surprise when soon after the restart both sides overheated and both James Kelly (Eagles scrumhalf) and Eamonn McNulty (Elks winger) were both sin binned as the main protagonists of the come together. The Eagles were soon to take advantage of the wide man not being on the pitch as Matt Connolly scored in the corner and O’Neill converted to close the gap to six points.

The Elks then took the game to the Eagles and Doherty, having a blinder, kicked ahead only to be taken out late by Andy Nyenhuis and the offender was shown a yellow card for his sins. This gave the Elks further possession and they made the most of it to go clear through Onisi Burekama, though the conversion was missed. With just under 15 minutes to go Burekama put clear daylight between the sides as he was sent in out wide for an easy score.

The kick was missed but with now less than ten minutes to go there were fourteen points between the sides and the Eagles needed eighteen points to win the series due to the aggregate score and they were given the chance to reduce when Peter Kelly danced through a tiring defence to reduce the score though O’Neill amazingly hit the underside of the crossbar from direct in front with his conversion.

Soon after Kelly blitzed through the defence and the supporting Deevy was fed to crash over. O’Neill added the extra two and the gap was now only four points with five to play but no further scores followed and the game ended with a series whitewash to the Elks and a first Origin title win.

Attention now switches to international matches against Italy, Malta and Jamaica followed by World Cup qualifiers against Spain and Russia in October. With many of the players on show in Portadown likely to be called into action again.
Summary report

On a wet and windy day the Northern Ireland Elks showed their mettle to not only win an absorbing game but to also take rugby league’s McGettigans State of Origin series for the very first time.

Northern Ireland held a narrow four-point win from game one of the series in Galway – their first ever win over the Republic in a State of Origin match. And the Elks grounded the Eagles again in game two at Portadown RFC on Saturday, to make history.

Despite a red-hot start, the Eagles trailed for the vast majority of the game before they rallied and gave themselves a shot at glory before time ran out on them.

An early score for the Eagles was soon countered by the Elks both teams battled to get on top in the first half. Elks did just that and two scores before the break gave them a ten point buffer.

Both teams wanted the win badly and the intensity and desire meant discipline was sometimes forgotten and soon into the second half both sides were down to 12 players as a come together saw a player from each side sin binned.

The Elks had lost a winger and the Eagles took advantage of this by scoring in the corner or the absent player. The Eagles were further reduced to 11 players soon after as a late hit on a kicker left them a player down and the Elks in possession deep in the Eagles territory.

The Elks made the most of their numerical advantage and increased the scores not once but twice to open up a 14 point gap and though the Eagles reduced it to four points late on they couldn’t close out the game and as the hooter went the Elks became origin champions and the joy was clear to see.

After a thrilling Origin series, attention now switches to international matches against Italy, Malta and Jamaica followed by World Cup qualifiers against Spain and Russia in October. With many of the players on show in Portadown likely to be called into action again.

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