By STEVE MASCORD
NEW Zealand half Kieran Foran last night remained hopeful he would overcome a painful leg injury to take his place in Friday’s Anzac Test against Australia.
On an injury-strewn evening at Dairy Farmers Stadium, Foran was forced off after half of Manly’s eventful 22-20 loss to North Queensland – a match in which Australia hopeful Jason King also suffered rib cartilage damage and Cowboys hooker Aaron Payne hurt his elbow.
“I was just running the ball and I copped an accidental knee,” Foran, who was hoping to return to international football at Skilled Park after an injury ruined his 2010 Four Nations campaign, said late last night.
Foran did not want to speculate on his chances of passing a fitness test. The initial diagnosis was a corked quadriceps.“I don’t know … we’ll just wait and see what the scans say.”
Coach Des Hasler, who described the decision to deny a late Michael Oldfield try “weak” on the part of video referee Paul Simpkins but admitted his side had been off its game, said the hopes of vice-captain King were also in the hands of medical technology. King had been touted as an Australia bolter.
“With the ribs, it just depends how serious they are,” Hasler said. “King got a whack in the ribs. We’ll have a better idea tomorrow.”
The impact of the representative season was also, perhaps, felt on the other side of the field last night with veteran North Queensland fullback Matt Bowen turning in a vintage performance that featured tries in the 21st and 56th minutes, showcasing just how little speed he has lost over the years.
If inclusion in a preliminary 25-man Queensland squad inspired Ben Barba the night before, then omission may have done the same for Bowen.
“Matty’s a realist,” coach Neil Henry argued.
“He knows of Billy Slater and the utility value of someone like Cooper Cronk if Johnathan (Thurston) is going to be halfback. He knows that – but also he’d love to wear the Queensland jumper again.”
But away from the rep season and back to the drama and Hasler condemned the decision to disallow a late try to Oldfield which would have narrowed the margin to two with six minutes left. In a scrappy lead-up, co-captain Jamie Lyon struggled to pick up a loose ball before Oldfield streaked down the sideline to the tryline.
North Queensland led 22-4 with 16 minutes left.
“They had so many looks at it,” said Hasler. “It was a weak decision. What was the name of the video ref?” Told it was Simpkins, Hasler said: “I thought Paul would know better.”
Centre Lyon’s assessment of the incident was simple: “It went back”. Henry reckoned: “The hand’s facing forward towards the tryline. I reckon it went forward off the hands.”
Lyon also contested Bowen’s second try (“Are you allowed the catch the ball behind someone and run out from behind them”) and blew up when defender Ashley Graham led with the knees after William Hopoate scored in the 65th minute. One Manly player could be heard telling referee Shayne Hayne “eight point try and send him off”.
“I thought it could have been,” Lyon said later. “That’s what the rule is there for but we couldn’t seem to get it. The two points would have been nice.”
Cowboys back rower Gavin Cooper suffered a corked lower back.
NORTH QUEENSLAND 22 (M Bowen 2 J Thurston A Payne tries J Thurston 3 goals) bt MANLY 14 (B Stewart W Hopoate M Oldfield tries W Cherry-Evans goal) at Dairy Farmers Stadium. Referees: S Hayne/G Morris. Crowd: 14,884.
Filed for: SUN-HERALD
Halftime: North Queensland 16 Manly 4
Toyota Cup fulltime: North Queensland 38 Manly 10.
Final team lists:
NQ: Matt Bowen; Ashley Graham, Antonio Winterstein, Willie Tonga, Kalifa FaiFai Loa; Ray Thompson, Johnathan Thurston (c): Dallas Johnson, Glenn Hall, Gavin Cooper, James Tamou, Aaron Payne, Matthew Scott. Res: Scott Bolton, Leeson Ah Mau, Tariq Sims, Ashton Sims.
MANLY: William Hopoate; Michael Robertson, Jamie Lyon (c), Steve Matai, Michael Oldfield; Kieran Foran, Daley Cherry-Evans; Glenn Stewart, Joel Galuvao, Anthony Watmough, Brent Kite, Matt Ballin, Jason King (c). Res: Jamie Buhrer, George Rose, Vic Mauro, Tony Williams.