QUEENSLAND’S bid to win a ninth straight State of Origin title took another blow tonight when star back Greg Inglis injured his ankle in South Sydney’s 34-18 NRL win over the NZ Warriors in Perth.
Inglis could hardly walk after his right leg twisted awkwardly under the weight of two players in a tackle-gone-wrong just before half-time.
The 27-year-old was clearly in pain as he limped off and his injury could prove to be the breaking point of Queensland’s eight-year Origin domination.
The Maroons are already 1-0 down in the series, meaning the June 18 clash in Sydney is a must-win affair.
But with star fullback Billy Slater still under an injury cloud, the last man the Queensland could afford to lose is Inglis.
Rabbitohs winger Bryson Goodwin, a late replacement for Alex Johnson, was also in the casualty ward after hyper-extending his left elbow while making a second-half tackle.
Despite the double injury blow, the Rabbitohs ran in five tries in the final 21 minutes to secure the come-from-behind win in front of 20,267 fans.
The situation wasn’t looking so bright early when tries to David Fusitu’a and Shaun Johnson put the Warriors 10-0 up after just eight minutes.
Superman would have been proud of Fusitu’a’s effort, the winger launching himself full stretch and dotting down in the corner despite more than half of his airborne body being in touch.
The Rabbitohs took a while to work their way into the contest, but looked dangerous once they did.
Centre Dylan Walker reduced the margin to four points when he sliced his way through the Warriors’ defence in the 24th minute.
With the momentum starting to shift, the Warriors opted to unleash some physical pain on the Rabbitohs.
Substitute Sebastine Ikahihifo was placed on report for a high hit on George Burgess and he left another Rabbitoh dazed just minutes later with a bruising tackle.
The Warriors were on track for victory when Simon Mannering’s 50th-minute try gave them a 14-6 edge.
But tries to Rabbitohs pair Walker and Kyle Turner within the space of two minutes swung the match South Sydney’s way, giving the ‘home’ side a 16-14 edge with 19 minutes to play.
A double to Dave Tyrrell iced the win, with Joel Reddy also scoring during the second half rout when he floated across a pack to take a high grab before crashing over.
South Sydney coach Michael Maguire confirmed Inglis had injured his ankle, but the club doctors were unsure about the severity of the damage.
“It got twisted underneath the tackle, and the leg did get caught there. It’s not great at the moment,” Maguire said.
“But he’s aggravated that same injury once before and he’s healed very quickly, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
“It was a game where we just had to fight until the death. We had no bench at one stage. I’m really proud of the team.”
Warriors coach Andrew McFadden felt his side missed a golden chance to secure victory over a high-profile rival.
“I thought given the circumstances, they were cherry ripe for the picking,” McFadden said.
“They hung in there and we went away completely from what we’ve been practising, and lost our way.”
Panthers go to top with win against Titans
PENRITH has hit the top of the NRL ladder after claiming a 36-14 win against Gold Coast tonight.
The Panthers scored six tries to two for their fourth win in a row to move to the top of the ladder on points differential.
James Segeyaro and Lewis Brown both scored in the first half at the Gold Coast’s Cbus Super Stadium before Isaah Yeo, Tyrone Peachey, Jamie Soward and Matt Moylan crossed in the second term to cap a comprehensive win.
Hooker Segeyaro was everywhere, notching 51 tackles and having a hand in Brown’s try as well as scoring the opener.
Young back-rower Peachey, who scored a 90-metre effort when he blocked an Albert Kelly kick and regathered, was also exceptional and winger Josh Mansour did his hopes of a NSW State of Origin call-up no harm with his performance.
The Titans, who led the competition earlier in the year, have now slumped with four straight losses.
Prop Luke Douglas, with his first four-pointer in 43 matches and winger David Mead scored for the Titans but the home team gifted tries to Yeo, Peachey and Soward in the second half.
Panthers’ winger David Simmons sat out the entire second half with a medial ligament strain to his left knee and faces a battle to be fit for next weekend’s home game against St George Illawarra.
Benji Marshall shines as Dragons slay Sharks
BENJI Marshall produced his best performance in a St George Illawarra jersey and Josh Dugan grabbed a hat-trick as an injury-plagued Cronulla side were put to the sword 30-0 in Wollongong tonight.
The beleaguered Sharks were without 13 of their top-25 playing squad and 2010 Golden Boot winner Marshall took full advantage having a hand in five of his side’s six tries in front of a crowd of 12,079.
Dugan gave his hopes of a recall to the NSW Origin side as a right centre a real shot in the arm with two tries before the interval, with Peter Mata’utia and Gerard Beale also crossing for four pointers.
The former Canberra star completed the second hat-trick of his career midway through the second half when he soared above a statuesque Sharks defence to haul in Marshall’s perfectly-weighted kick.
Dugan’s display will certainly have given NSW coach Laurie Daley food for thought but so would the level of opposition he faced, which was little more than a reserve-grade standard.
But it would be churlish to be very critical of Marshall, in his third game since his shock return to the NRL from his disastrous spell in New Zealand rugby, as he showed glimpses of the class he demonstrated so often in a Wests Tigers shirt.
Mata’utia’s 13th-minute opener was created by a sweeping run and pass from the former Kiwi skipper that found Aidan Quinlan in support.
Marshall then set up Dugan’s first try with a smart inside ball before producing a no-look pass to giftwrap his second.
He then delivered a delicious long pass to Gareth Widdop that resulted in Beale charging over the line.
The Sharks were much improved after half-time but were toothless in attack and, with playmakers Todd Carney and Jeff Robson on the sidelines, they never really put the hosts under pressure.
Beale added some extra gloss to the scoreline with his second try four minutes from time following a brilliantly regathered grubber-kick from Widdop, handing McGregor his first victory as interim coach.