By STEVE MASCORD
LYING in the back of an ambulance, NSW Origin standby Tariq Sims apologised for letting his team-mates down after breaking a leg during a North Queensland victory secured by the heroics of brother Ashton.
The 22-year-old was due to fly to Melbourne at 9.25am today as a possible replacement for Blues skipper Paul Gallen in Origin I but will instead wake up in Townsville Hospital after snapping his left leg in exactly the same place it broke last season.
Earlier, his cries of “f***, I’ve broken it again” were heard around the country on live television.
Penrith hit the lead not long after Sims departure but brother Ashton – who rose from the reserves bench to comfort Tariq as his medicab crossed the sideline – waged a one-man war on the Panthers when sent back into the contest.
He scored the match-winning try with six minutes left and – poetically – had the ball as the fulltime siren sounded.
“It’s never good when you see the medicab come onto the field,” Ashton said late last night. “I don’t know the extent of his injuries so I’ll head up there now.
“It’s heartbreaking. He got called up to the Origin as 18th man too so that sort of sucks.
“I know it’s easy for me to say but he’s one of the most stand-up blokes I’ve ever known.
“He’s only 22. He was playing some really good footy before he hurt himself tonight. I just feel really bad for him. He’s got such a bright future and he’ll bounce back from this.”
The injury, which is likely to sideline Sims for three months, gives Wests Tigers’ Aaron Woods an elevated chance of getting a run if there is a late withdrawal. NSW could, however, opt to call up someone else with back row experience as Gallen battles a knee injury.
Tariq Sims’ NSW camp involvement was already in doubt by the time he was injured anyway. Two minutes beforehand, he had been placed on report for using a forearm to the head of Penrith’s Blake Austin.
“You had two gos,” referee Steve Lyons told Sims. “You could be lucky to be staying here. Clean up your game.”
Coach Neil Henry described the incident as “a freak accident.”
“He was on the ground and a support runner’s come through and just happened to collect him on that spot,” Henry said.
The coach said the club opted not to tell Tariq Sims of his NSW inclusion but it was in the media before kick-off anyway. “I don’t know about the timing of that,” he said.
With halfback Luke Walsh a late inclusion, the Panthers scored first through Clint Newton and never let the Cowboys out of their sights, even when the home side threatened to take control of the game.
Penrith led 12-10 at halftime, before touchdowns to Antonio Winterstein and Gavin Cooper appeared to give NQ a strong advantage. Tries to Brad Tighe and Josh Mansour left Ivan Cleary’s side in contention for an upset.
Ashton Sims, however, wasn’t going to let that happen.
He was a one-man wrecking ball when he returned the fray, coming up with the ball after a bomb for the video referee-approved clincher.
Despite his side hitting the front late in the contest, Penrith coach Ivan Cleary was none-too-pleased with proceedings.
“We just beat ourselves,” said Cleary. “Penalties … I think four times after we scored, we gave away a penalty.
“The start of the second half – a couple of cheat errors. Tackle six – conceded tries on the last tackle. We only needed a fair share possession in that second half and we would have been OK.”
NORTH QUEENSLAND 30 (M Bowen G Cooper A Graham A Sims A Winterstein tries M Bowen 5 goals) bt PENRITH 28 (T Burns L Coote J Mansour C Newton B Tighe tries B Austin 3 L Walsh goals) at Dairy Farmers Stadium. Referee: S Lyons/C James. Crowd: 7,648.
Filed for: SUN-HERALD
Final team lists:
NQ: Matt Bowen (c); Ashley Graham, Antonio Winterstein, Kane Linnett, Kalifa FaiFaiLoa; Michael Morgan, Ray Thompson; Dallas Johnson, Tariq Sims, Gavin Cooper, Glenn Hall, Aaron Payne, Ashton Sims. Res: James Segeyaro, Ricky Thorby, Scott Bolton, Jason Taumalolo.
PENRITH: Lachlan Coote; Etu Uaisele, Geoff Daniela, Brad Tighe, Josh Mansour; Blake Austin, Luke Walsh; Ryan Simpkins, Cameron Ciraldo, Clint Newton, Tim Grant, Kevin Kingston (c), Sam McKendry. Res: Travis Burns, Danny Galea, Chris Armit, Dayne Weston.
Toyota Cup fulltime: Penrith 26-20