Rugby League history made
The electrifying Indigenous All Stars have created history by winning the inaugural Rugby League All Stars showpiece 16-12 at Skilled Park on Saturday night.
By Mark Pangallo at Skilled Park
Played in front of a near-record crowd of 26,687 on Saturday night and inspired by Wendell Sailor’s early try, the men in black raced out to an early 10-point lead by half-time.
However, three tries in eight minutes gave the NRL All Stars a two-point lead going into the final quarter, but lifted by passionate supporters, the Indigenous side crossed six minutes from time and held on for a famous win.
Halfback Johnathan Thurston was inspirational all night and was fully deserved of the Preston Campbell Medal for man of the match.
Taking on a slightly different approach to the rules, the match was played over four 20-minute quarters and with an unlimited interchange.
The double try was also on show offering up the chance of an eight-point play whereby the scoring team was given the chance to forego the conversion kick for an opportunity at one additional play to score another try.
Spurred on by the Nunukal Yuggera war cry just before kick-off, the Indigenous All Stars got off to a flying start courtesy of Sailor three minutes in.
After a sweeping play that stretched the NRL All Stars line, Scott Prince’s grubber to the right-hand side corner was latched onto by Sailor who slid across the line to a massive roar from the crowd.
Playing in his last NRL game, Sailor’s poignant didgeridoo celebration with the corner post almost earned the same rapturous applause.
Employing the double-try tactic, the Indigenous side then tried to make the eight-point play but to no avail and the match went up a gear.
Israel Folau nearly leveled for the NRL a short time later when he intercepted and streamed 70 metres down field only to be mowed down by Sharks speedster Blake Ferguson 10 out from the line.
Broncos lock Sam Thaiday led some ferocious first-quarter tackling for the Indigenous side, and was instrumental in holding up a silky Jarryd Hayne who looked to have crossed over for the NRL just before the break.
Two minutes into the second quarter, Rabbitohs winger Nathan Merrit broke through out wide on the left for the men in black, but some good work from NRL pair Kurt Gidley and Adam Blair saw the decision turned down by the video referee.
Gidley was then on the receiving end of some heavy treatment by Knights team-mate Cory Patterson who laid a massive hit to leave the big utility reeling with a possible knee injury.
With the Indigenous All Stars coming under sustained pressure from the NRL side, Preston Campbell then produced a swift intercept 10 from the line gaining 60 metres.
The Indigenous captain’s gain then led to his side’s second try of the night when Ben Jones, the man with bright red locks, speared under hooker Cameron Smith to score a metre out from dummy half.
With the match being played a such a frenetic pace, Cowboys halfback Thurston opted to take the conversion, bending his effort over the bar to give the Indigenous All Stars a 10-0 lead with six minutes left before the break.
Hayne nearly got one back just before the break but his effort was halted by a tackle from Thurston who came out of nowhere like a flash to smack the ball out of Hayne’s arms.
Fans couldn’t have asked for a better display as the half-time siren sounded with every single representing player treating the showcase with grand final-like gusto.
Campbell copped some early third-quarter treatment from Rabbitohs prop Sam Burgess as did Travis Waddell who was left groggy after colliding with Luke Bailey.
With less than seven minutes remaining in the quarter the NRL All Stars finally found their way onto the score sheet when Smith kicked to the corner and Josh Morris bundled his way over to bring back the deficit to six points, after the attempted double-try failed to eventuate.
The men in white then got a second with 90 seconds remaining when Thurston’s chip came unstuck and Anthony Tupou fed a pass out to Tigers star Benji Marshall who tore away, running 50 metres unchallenged to bring the Indigenous All Stars lead back to two points heading into the fourth quarter.
Emerging for the final stanza the NRL All Stars then took the lead from kick-off when Billy Slater’s fullback replacement Brett Finch kicked forward to Panthers centre Michael Jennings who scored in the corner to make the scores 12-10.
The Indigenous side held firm for the double play making sure the NRL side’s third eight-point attempt went pear shaped.
After trading attacking sets Jamie Soward gave the Indigenous All Stars back the lead with six minutes left in the match.
Collecting Robbie Farah’s dropped ball, the inspirational Thurston provided the pass around the back for Soward to run 70 metres clear down the line to score sending the crowd wild.
Thurston from the sideline then made the crucial conversion hooking the ball over to put the Indigenous All Stars four in front.
The last-ditch efforts were enough for the Indigenous side as the final siren sounded, giving the men in black an emotional and historic win.
Indigenous All Stars 16
Tries: Sailor, Jones, Soward
Goals: Thurston 2
NRL All Stars 12
Tries: Morris, Marshall, Jennings
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