Hits and Misses: The hamstring twang heard around the world

This week we take a look at the hamstring injury to Nathan Cleary, the magnificent performances of some Blues Origin stars who were under pressure to retain their positions, and the agonising loss experienced by the Tigers at Campbelltown.

Read on as we take a look back at some of the biggest hits and misses of the weekend.


Torn hammy will see Blues half change

Just 16 minutes into the Panthers' clash with the Dragons there was a twang which was heard around the world, well, at least up and down the East coast of Australia. With the must-win State of Origin Game 2 just two-and-a-half weeks away, Blues halfback Nathan Cleary pulled up as he made a dash across the line in defence.

He hobbled off in obvious pain clutching at his hamstring, and watched the rest of the game in a compression bandage, while sitting on an ice pack. Scans on Monday revealed a hamstring tear which will keep Cleary out for up to six weeks.

Jack Cogger, who was prophetically named on the bench, came on to take the place of Cleary, and did well enough to lead the Panthers to a tough eight-point victory.

The Blues selectors will have next weekend to formulate a plan to replace Cleary. Coach and father Ivan knew the writing was on the wall.

"We're going to be without him for a while," Ivan Cleary said after the game.

"I'm not a doctor but it's a significant injury. I think he'd be very unlikely (for game two)."

The most likely scenario for New South Wales will see Nico Hynes handed the No.7 jersey, with Fittler to find a new bench utility, possibly Damien Cook.


Origin stars stand up in Roosters-Bulldogs clash

Following Wednesday's State of Origin disappointment for New South Wales, there has been a lot of pressure on a whole raft of Blues players to retain their spots for Game 2 in Brisbane. With this in mind, it was interesting to see the performances of the Origin players backing up for the Roosters and Bulldogs in Gosford on Sunday.

Blues skipper James Tedesco scored the Roosters' only two tries of the first half, while Josh Addo-Carr set up the Bulldogs' second try shortly after Tavita Pangai Junior had scooped up a deflected kick to open the scoring.

Tedesco crossed for a third try before the break but it was disallowed after a decoy runner took Matt Burton out of the defensive line.

After the break the Origin magic continued with Addo-Carr burning the turf at the end of a scrum move from the Bulldogs own ten metre line. He left Rugby Australia's super signing Joseph Suaali'i in his dust to race away for the Bulldogs' third try.

Tedesco soon answered, splitting the Bulldogs' defence from dummy-half inside his own half before offloading to winger Junior Pauga who scored under the posts.

To keep the Blues battle going, Addo-Carr was next to score, chasing through on a Burton grubber kick from 20 metres out. The Burton conversion putting the Bulldogs ahead 24-18. The Roosters levelled the scores through a Suaali'i try, which a distracted Addo-Carr should have been in position to stop.

The Roosters managed to win thanks to a Luke Keary field goal taken with six minutes remaining. Roosters coach Trent Robinson wasn't surprised by Tedesco's efforts.

"That's what champions do," Robinson said.

"Champions assume the pressure that's involved and they go, 'all I can do is play'.

"He carried us right from the start today. He put us on his back and went, 'I'm going to play footy'. He played all different styles today and we needed him. He showed who he is."

Tedesco admitted that he felt the pressure.

"From myself, I carry a lot of expectation and weight on my shoulders," Tedesco said.

"I tried to get back to playing my natural footy, instinctive footy, as a fullback.

"It's been tough but I just wanted to let go of Wednesday night and go out there and enjoy my footy."

The happiest spectator of the game would have been Blues coach Brad Fittler, as his skipper and winger both answered the critics and under fire forward Pangai Junior had a big game, running for 191 metres to go with his try.


Tigers' magnificent fightback all for nothing

Rugby league can be a cruel game at times. With the Tigers mounting an incredible second-half fightback against the fading Raiders, we saw a moment of desperation turn into a match-losing penalty.

The Tigers had run down the Raiders after trailing 18-0 in the second half. The Tigers didn't score their first point until a Jahream Bula try in the 68th minute after Raiders rake Tom Starling was sent to the sin bin a minute earlier. From there they opened the Raiders up scoring back-to-back tries through John Bateman and Brendan Wakeham. Wakeham converted all three and the scores we locked at 18-18 with six minutes to go.

The Tigers were on the charge, and worked their way downfield again, this time for Luke Brooks to slot a field goal to put them ahead for the first time in the game, with four minutes remaining.

The Raiders were able to regain possession from a short kickoff and work their way into field goal range, hoping to level the scores at 19. The ball was fired back to Jamal Fogarty, who kicked it just wide, but ended up sprawled across the turf. Replays showed Isaiah Papali'i diving at Fogarty's lower legs, taking his feet out from under him as he was in the air. It was totally illegal, completely dangerous and a penalty every day of the week. Fogarty kicked the penalty goal from in front and the Raiders held on for the final minutes to win 20-19.


Oates shows he still has it on return to Broncos

Winger Corey Oates put on a classic performance for the Broncos in their victory over the Sharks on Saturday night. From their own 10 metre line, the Broncos spread the ball wide five minutes before half time. The final pass from Ezra Mann found the Shark Park turf before bouncing into the lap of Oates, and the lanky veteran was off to the races.

Just over the halfway line with the defence closing in, Oates put in an ordinary kick ahead, but the pursuing Mann chased hard, gathered the ball on the bounce and scored a try that once converted took the score to 10-6. Oates topped the Broncos run metres with 237, made three line breaks and proved a handful for the Sharks all night. Should Queensland be in need of a winger at any point soon, he wouldn't look out of place back in a maroon jersey.


New Cowboy impresses on debut in Townsville

Semi Valemei only joined the North Queensland Cowboys last month, after an early release from a patchy career with the Canberra Raiders. He made his Cowboys debut on the wing against the Storm on a sticky Townsville Sunday evening, and left everyone wondering where he had been hiding.

The Fijian international crossed for three first half tries as the Cowboys worked on a massive 45-22 upset victory over the out of sorts Storm. His runs out of trouble were outstanding, proving a handful as he rattled into and often through the defence.

Late in the game Valemei understandably started to cramp up, but was all smiles as the fulltime siren signalled the end of a night which could spark a Cowboys revival. And it came somewhat miraculously just two weeks after they were totally embarrassed by the Tigers.


Cook puts hand up for possibly vacant bench spot

Blues coach Brad Fittler decided to go with a single hooker in Api Koroisau for the State of Origin opener in Adelaide. He made the difficult call to Damien Cook to let him know his run in the side was over. Cook took the news graciously, telling Fittler that he would be ready and waiting should he need him.

Midway through the second half, 28 metres out from the Titans line, Cook picked the ball up from dummy-half and scooted to the left. He then swerved to the right across the ruck and found Cody Walker running up the middle in support. Walker crashed over next to the post to extend the Rabbitohs' lead to 32-22 after the easy conversion.

Cook topped the tackle count with 38, was his usual scheming self, running when the defence was at his mercy and feeding the Souths forwards and backline when needed. There have been many calls for the Blues to go back to a twin hooker scheme to match the Maroons who play Ben Hunt and Harry Grant so successfully.