Ma­roons bank on Storm ‘spine’ to win de­cider

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Hold­ers Queens­land will rely on the Mel­bourne Storm ‘spine’ to give the Ma­roons vic­tory in to­day’s State of Ori­gin rugby league se­ries de­cider against New South Wales in Bris­bane.

Queens­land have won 10 of the last 11 fiercely-fought in­ter­state se­ries and must do with­out in­jured mercurial Test pivot Johnathan Thurston and Test back Dar­ius Boyd to clinch an­other one.

Thurston landed a pres­sure side­line con­ver­sion to crown a mag­nif­i­cent 18-16 come­back vic­tory over the Blues last month to keep the se­ries alive, but af­ter­wards was ruled out for the rest of the sea­son with a shoul­der in­jury. The Ma­roons have named debu­tant Cameron Mun­ster as Thurston’s re­place­ment at stand-off, im­plant­ing the steely Mel­bourne Storm club ‘spine’ into the Queens­land start­ing line-up.

Queens­land will have skip­per Cameron Smith at hooker along with his fel­low Storm team­mates Cooper Cronk at scrum-half, Mun­ster at stand-off and Billy Slater at full­back along with Will Cham­bers in the cen­tres. “He’s play­ing with them ev­ery week these guys and un­der­stands their game,” Ma­roons coach Kevin Wal­ters said af­ter se­lect­ing Mun­ster at No.6.

“Ob­vi­ously the spine is a big part of what we do and cer­tainly Cameron, Cooper and Billy are a ma­jor part of that.” Smith, Cronk and Slater play an in­flu­en­tial role in the Queens­land team, with their in­nate un­der­stand­ing of at­tack­ing plays para­mount to the Ma­roons’ chances.

Slater and Cronk are ex­pected to make an an­nounce­ment on their Ori­gin fu­tures af­ter Wed­nes­day’s crunch game.

“Hope­fully we’ll find out af­ter this se­ries is done where Cooper’s at for next year, Bill’s a bit dif­fer­ent,” Smith said.

“I think he’s very keen to play on, it’s just whether he feels his body’s up to it. “I try to take the emo­tion out of it. It’s prob­a­bly one of the big­gest games we have been in­volved in, but we have to get a job done,” he added. Af­ter amass­ing a record 41 Ori­gins - in­clud­ing 17 as skip­per - Smith said this year’s ti­tle would be his most en­joy­able.

“It’d be the most sat­is­fy­ing, no doubt about that given the in­juries we’ve had and the per­son­nel that are un­avail­able,” he said.

The Blues are bidding to clinch their first Ori­gin se­ries since 2014 af­ter de­ci­sively win­ning the open­ing game 28-4 in Bris­bane. Lau­rie Da­ley is in line to be­come only the sec­ond NSW coach af­ter Phil Gould to claim more than one se­ries tri­umph for NSW.

Da­ley has named an un­changed side, although skip­per and back-rower Boyd Cord­ner is bat­tling a calf in­jury to be ready in time for the match.

Teams (1-17) Queens­land: Billy Slater; Valen­tine Holmes, Will Cham­bers, Michael Mor­gan, Dane Ga­gai; Cameron Mun­ster, Cooper Cronk; Dy­lan Napa, Cameron Smith (capt), Jar­rod Wal­lace; Gavin Cooper, Matt Gil­lett; Josh McGuire. In­ter­change: Ben Hunt, Josh Pa­palii, Coen Hess, Tim Glasby.

NSW: James Tedesco; Brett Mor­ris, Josh Du­gan, Jar­ryd Hayne, Blake Fer­gu­son; James Maloney, Mitchell Pearce; Aaron Woods, Nathan Peats, An­drew Fi­fita; Boyd Cord­ner (capt), Josh Jack­son; Tyson Frizell. In­ter­change: David Klem­mer, Wade Gra­ham, Jake Tr­bo­je­vic, Jack Bird. Ref­er­ees: Matt Cecchin, Ger­ard Sut­ton. —AFP

KAZAN: France’s Amelie Mugner (C) vies with Ir­ish Lucy Mul­hall (L) and Lucy Mul­hall (R) dur­ing the women’s Rugby Sev­ens Grand Prix Se­ries match be­tween France and Ire­land in Kazan on Mon­day. — AFP

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