Sparkling Cooper Turns Blues Pale

Cooper Cronk/wikipedia

By STEVE MASCORD

A 40 metre field goal from the man who replaced the great Darren Lockyer in Queensland’s State of Origin side.

As a memory of the 2012 rugby league season, Cooper Cronk’s one-pointer with five minutes to go last night at Suncorp Stadium will take some beating, the fans at the Caxton Street end telling the story of a match-winning play before anyone else knew it had gone over.

It’s a passage of play destined to be replayed for years, a grab from an Origin contest that lived up to and exceded the overblown expectation placed upon it.

Before that, that, there was another moment – one you almost didn’t see – when Todd Carney tied up Origin III with a sideline conversion with nine minutes to go.

After Josh Morris’ miraculous try off a Robbie Farah kick was given by video referees Steve Clark and Russell Smith, Channel Nine went to a short ad break.

Producers must have crossed fingers and prayed that NSW halfback Carney didn’t rush the conversion attempt, forcing them to show a replay.

Thankfully, Cronulla star waited long enough to launch the ball from its plastic stand just as Australian viewers returned to Suncorp Stadium – and what a kick it was, sailing between the uprights.

The 20-20 ledger lasted only five minutes, however.

Until then, the moment which looked like dominating water-cooler conversation this morning was the same as the one we usually talk about after a State Of Origin game – a stink.

As he probably has 100 times, Queensland winger Brent Tate gave an opponent a shove after being tackled heavily a few minutes into Origin III at Suncorp Stadium last night.

Maybe he thought that opponent, NSW captain Paul Gallen, had been responsible for collecting him high a few moments earlier. In fact, the assailant had been Blues prop Tim Grant.

But Gallen didn’t take kindly to the shove. Not at all.

He took a step towards Tate, then another, and another, and punched him in the head.

As is customary in State Of Origin, this resulted in protagonists coming from everywhere. At one point NSW back-rower Greg Bird was on the ground, face up, with two Queenslanders on top of him.

Tate had the chance to throw a particularly ugly punch but settled for leaning on the Gold Coast international’s face with one arm.

“The penalty’s against you for the punch,” referee Ben Cummins told Gallen.

“What about him punching me?” Gallen responded. “I didn’t see that,” Cummins responded.

It was the first of several sorties, Tate v Bird emerging as rugby league’s latest feud. When Brett Morris plunged over for the first try of the match, there was further pushing and shoving.

Even retiring type Petero Civoniceva got into the act, rushing in when Tony Williams took Cooper Cronk high in the 62nd minute. “You know better than that!” was the admonishment from referee Tony Archer.

The heavy contact was not restricted to fisticuffs, however, with events in the first half indicating that the NRL’s crackdown on concussion clearly doesn’t apply to State of Origin.

Players concussed in club games are supposed to be assessed by medicos and pass a congnescence test before returning to battle.

But in order for that to happen, they have to actually leave the field.

When NSW hooker Robbie Farah was collided first with Petero Civoniceva and then with Nate Myles, he was struck with such force that Blues trainer Ronnie Palmer signalled immediately to the referees for play to be stopped.

But NSW had no cover on the bench for an injured hooker so Farah stayed on the field.

Likewise, Blues replacement forward Ben Creagh was unconscious before he hit the ground when he tried to poke his head between two defenders in the 27th minute.

He also received a head cut which Channel Nine’s Andrew Johns estimated at 20cm.

But Creagh was fitted with head gear, returned to the bench, and waited his turn to go back on. Jarryd Hayne was floored and appeared dazed near his own line during the first half, but after receiving attention, continued.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

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