from Rugby League Ireland
The Republic of Ireland’s rugby league dominance over Northern Ireland will be on the line when the rivals clash in game two of the 2016 State of Origin series this weekend.
The Northern Ireland Elks secured a first ever victory over the Republic of Ireland Eagles in game one last weekend in Galway, claiming a thrilling, last-gasp 34-30 victory with the final play of the match.
That means the Eagles must by four points or more in Saturday’s return match at Portadown RFC to claim an aggregate victory over the two legs and retain the Origin title. Anything less and the Elks will be McGettigans State of Origin champions for the first time.
Eagles coach Adam Cox is aware that his team will need to guard against the defensive lapses which cost them dearly in Galway. The Eagles lost to a try in injury time despite being 16 points ahead with 20 minutes left to play and having a one-man advantage due to an Elks sin-binning.
Cox said: “To blow a lead like we had last weekend was a big wake-up call and shows that the Elks are not going to lie down easily. They are a big physical side who are well drilled and we need to stop their big lads making easy yards. The team that can control the middle of the paddock and close down the play the ball area will win the match.
“The last thing we spoke about after the game on Saturday was the fact that we had never lost a match let alone a series in the history of the State of Origin. The boys are well aware of what is at stake and I am very confident we can bounce back from the loss. The team showed a lot of skill and ability last weekend and the biggest challenge this week is playing like that for 80 minutes. It’s a simple question really and ultimately will ask them if they want to be the first Republic team to lose a series to the Elks.”
After Saturday’s Origin series decider, the rugby league season moves towards and internals and World Cup qualifiers, and Cox said that this is an additional incentive for players to perform and impress.
He said: “There have never been greater opportunities to play for Ireland than there is right now, so the players really need to perform to get a sport in those squads.”
Kick-off at Portadown RFC at 3.30pm, with the U19s curtain-raiser on beforehand at 1pm.