It’s State of Origin time again and while it is one of the biggest sporting events in the country, it’s difficult for a West Australian to really feel the passion with no vested interest in who wins.
However, the series between Queensland and New South Wales attracts a huge TV audience and this year fanatical fan and club owner Russell Crowe brokered a deal to ensure all the action is shown in the United States.
The 2011 series got underway on Wednesday with the heavily-fancied Queensland side, who have won the last five series on the bounce, running out 16-12 winners at Suncorp Stadium. Jonathon Thurston set them on their way with an early try as the Maroons dominated the opening exchanges. Jharal Yow Yeh crossed to stretch the lead further but the Blues responded with two touchdowns of their own from Mitchell Pearce and Michael Jennings to lead 12-10.
With 10 minutes to go though, Queensland skipper Darren Lockyer who, at 34, is playing his last professional season, set up a late winning try for Billy Slater on his record-equalling 34th Origin game.
The match ended with a heated exchange between both sides that saw plenty of handbags and the odd punch in between.
Game 2 takes place on June 15 in Sydney.
The most anticipated game of the weekend came at the newly-refurbished and hugely-impressive Metricon Stadium as Gold Coast took on Geelong in their first ‘real’ home game. It also marked the first time star midfielder and big money Suns recruit Gary Ablett lined up against his former side with whom he won two Premierships in 2007 and 2009.
The Suns started superbly and led by 20 points at quarter time but then tired in the second half as the table topping Cats showed their class to run out 139-73 winners. Steve Johnson was in great form, kicking four goals in the third quarter and seven overall, while James Kelly, Paul Chapman and Joel Selwood also played well.
Collingwood, for whom Dale Thomas was in stunning form (see the below ‘banana goal’) remain in second spot on the ladder after a comfortable win over the West Coast Eagles on Sunday afternoon, while the other side from the west, Fremantle, were hammered in their own back yard by St Kilda. Indeed, the Dockers kicked just one first half goal against a side that has struggled in front of goal themselves in recent weeks.
It was a case of another week, another defeat for the Western Bulldogs lost out to Hawthorn, while Brisbane recorded their second win of the year away to Adelaide. Carlton, Sydney and Port Adelaide were the other Round 10 winners.
The Queensland Reds signalled their intent to take out this year’s Super Rugby competition as they clinched a last minute 17-16 win over the Crusaders in Brisbane. Wallaby Quade Cooper was the hero, kicking a late penalty to win the battle of the playmakers with Kiwi superstar Dan Carter.
Ben Tapuai and Will Genia scored tries for the Reds either side of a Brent Ward five pointer for the visitors who led into the closing stages thanks to the accurate boot of Carter. Cooper had the final say however, giving his side a win that moves them four points clear at the top of the ladder.
Of the other Australian sides, the Western Force managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory having led for the majority of the game against the Hurricanes. The Waratahs and Brumbies lost to the Sharks and Stormers respectively, while it was bye week for the Melbourne Rebels.