Belfast Telegraph

Eagles take first blood in State of Origin match-up

 

By Steve Hogan

In an enthralling game, in front of an enthusiastic crowd, the Republic of Ireland Eagles drew first blood in the Rugby League Ireland Origin Series with a narrow 22-20 victory over the Northern Ireland Elks.

Matt Connolly opened the scoring with a try from the Eagles own 20-metre line, before Ethon Moloney made the most of an Elks handling error to run an arc out wide right to glide over for a second try.

The Elks responded quickly when Kenny McCombe bust through a two man tackle to score. This was converted by Jason Gribben and the gap was two points.

The Eagles then went over again when Andrew Coade scooted from short range to crash over. Peter O'Neill was struggling with the boot and again missed his conversion attempt.

Then with the half coming to an end, the Elks switched off and smart work by Coade sent Connolly in down the short side for a clever score.

At 16-6 at half time the Elks were still in the game, and early in the second half, Jonny Mooney faked a pass to cut back in from short range.

The Eagles rallied and successive penalties gave them field position before Coade got his second try from a short range scoot and dive over. O'Neill must have found his kicking boots at the half time break as he returned to his normal self with a fine conversion.

Again the Elks came back and JJ Baird scored a try out wide. Soon after team captain, Chris Hall went over. A missed conversion by Gribben meant it was a two point game.

The Eagles then thought they had put the game to bed and with it, a hat-trick for Coade but a knock on in the build up denied him the try.

So, the Eagles triumphed but a win by three or more points next week will give the Elks the series on aggregate.

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