Spoils Shared After Thrilling Opening Encounter in State of Origin Series

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Game one of the inaugural Rugby League Ireland State of Origin series between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland was always going to be a tense affair with both sides playing together for the first time.

Late scores for both sides had the crowd at Dromore on the edge as either side could have picked up a vital victory in the two game series however, in what was a just result the spoils were shared.

The early proceedings of the game saw the Republic of Ireland drive hard at the Northern Ireland defence and they found themselves in good field position but handling errors combined with solid defence held the visitors out.

Prop forward Andrew Keating made some vital carries for the Eagles to get them on the front foot. While the hosts weathered the storm they also managed to get up the field quickly with sharp play the balls giving them solid field position.

It was from this quick ball that they managed to open the scoring when halfback Nick Finlay got off a nice bomb into the corner which centre Paddy James rose highest for and touched down to give the home side the early impetus.

This try gave the Elks some vital confidence and they began to force their game on the Eagles.

The crowd were treated to some big collisions with neither set of forwards willing to give an inch and it took a forward to add a second score when Matty Hadden touched down for the Elks to make it 12-0.

The visiting side were under pressure and needed a spark and that came just before half time when after their third time over the line they got a try to bring them back into the game.

The half time score was 12-6 to the hosts with no real indication as to who might win the game.

In the second half it was more of the same as both sides managed what the others had to offer.

Despite this it would be the Elks who extended the lead when Hadden once more broke the line and touched down to give his side a 16-6 lead.

At this point the Eagles needed a try to get themselves back into the game but they would find themselves in deeper waters when Carl Roche was sent to the sin bin.

Despite being down to twelve men they rallied and strong carries from Lemeki Vaipulu, Keating, Wayne Kerr and Simon Deevy got them back into good field position where they grabbed a second try to bring them to within four points.

Back to thirteen men and with renewed confidence they managed to get themselves back into good field position and Deevy acted the quickest after a penalty was awarded. He tapped and crashed over under the goal posts to put the Eagles in front for the first time in the game.

With less than five minutes to go the visitors just needed to close out the game but three consecutive penalties gave Finlay a chance to level the scores to which he duly obliged.

Again the game was on a knife edge and with the time running out a spilled ball by the Elks gave their opposition one last chance to grab an away victory.

The Eagles drove down into the Elks ten metre line and Kerr dropped into the pocket for a drop goal that if successful would snatch a dramatic victory. However, despite grabbing two drop goals in the 2013 All Ireland

Final the props effort this time would go wide of the post and would leave the game level at the full time whistle.

It was widely agreed that either side had chances to win the game but they let their opposition back into proceedings at vital stages.

This sets up a nail biting second game next Saturday in Ashbourne with the winner taking home the 2014 State of Origin Trophy.

Northern Ireland Elks: Andy Hodgen, Tesh Edwards, Paddy James, Andrew Todd, Michael Carson, Nick Finlay, Robbie Stewart, Rodney Bennett, Wayne Kelly, Lee Barlow, Stephen Corr, Josh Donaldson, Matty Hadden

INTERCHANGE: Connor Phillips, Gareth Gill, Matthew Cahoon, Tom Fraser

Republic of Ireland Eagles: Mark Kenny, Matt Connolly, Casey Dunne, Mick Fitzmaurice, Matt Bailey, Sean Rees, Adam Cox, Wayne Kerr, Laurie Byrne, Andrew Keating, Carl Roche, Cronan Gleeson, Simon Deevy INTERCHANGE: Michael Russell, Ben Turner, Lemeki Vaipulu, Adam Hughes

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