Six of the best Anzac Day matches in NRL history

Greg Prichard Columnist

By , Greg Prichard is a Roar Expert

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    Greg Inglis is known for his ability to produce on the big stage. (AAP Image/Action Photographics, Colin Whelan)

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    On our national day of remembrance, when we proudly honour those who fought for our country, there have been some great sporting deeds. Here, we recall six of the best Anzac Day rugby league clashes.

    2014: Greg Inglis scores solo try of the year as Rabbitohs win
    This was ‘GI’, one of the superstars of the game, at his brilliant, amazing best for South Sydney.

    Collecting a ball 12 metres off his own line from a Brisbane chip kick, Inglis immediately sensed there might be an opportunity from broken play, but it was still going to take an extraordinary effort to turn it into something special.

    Inglis somehow made that effort, heading to the left and beating the first defender before almost ricocheting off the referee and cutting back inside. He then beat three more defenders down the middle before seeing open space towards the try-line on the left.

    The mighty fullback was a majestic sight in full stride as he strode out in an angled run towards the corner, beating two desperate, diving tackles before touching down for an absolute classic try.

    Commentating on the Channel Nine coverage of the game, Peter Sterling began his recap of Inglis’s run to the line by saying: “Well, I think we’re better off just not saying a word and letting this speak for itself, because this is remarkable.”

    Inglis’s try punched an early Souths lead over the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium out to 14-0. Brisbane fought back to eventually lead 26-20, but then the Rabbitohs equalised with a converted try and ended up winning through an Adam Reynolds penalty goal one minute from full-time.

    What a night!

    2005: Brown gets some breathing space thanks to Head’s intervention
    St George Illawarra had lost five of their first six games and the pressure on coach Nathan Brown to turn it around was increasing. A post-match management review of the season’s start was not going to look good for him had the numbers worsened to one win and six losses.

    And it was looking like going that way when the Roosters led 24-20 at Aussie Stadium with three minutes to go.

    But then Dragons halfback Mathew Head came up with two huge plays – both with his boot – to turn things around.

    First, he chipped and regathered before sending centre Matt Cooper over in the corner to level things up. Then, he displayed the ultimate calm of a goal-kicker you need in a situation like this to convert from the sideline for a 26-24 win.

    Brown celebrated the victory as enthusiastically as any of his players and the win kick-started St George Illawarra’s season.

    They won 15 of their last 18 regular-season games to make the finals in second place, but after beating Cronulla in the first week of the playoffs they were eliminated by eventual premiers Wests Tigers in a grand final qualifier.

    Head described his exploits in the Anzac Day game as “something you dream about”.

    2015: Sea Eagles dig deep to ensure last beats first
    When Anzac Day fell on a Saturday in 2015, the NRL scheduled five games across ten hours in two countries.

    There were numerous great feats of football that day, but perhaps the best was the effort by Manly to go to AAMI Park and beat the Storm on their home turf.

    Melbourne had won five out of their first seven games and were on top of the competition table. The Sea Eagles had won one from seven and were rooted to the bottom. But, this day, form going into the game didn’t mean anything in the end as Manly emerged triumphant.

    The game had looked like going according to form – at least in the first half. The Storm led 10-2 at halftime, following tries from Cooper Cronk and Marika Koroibete, but the home side didn’t score again and it was the Sea Eagles who stormed home in the rain.

    A try to Tom Symonds was converted by David Williams to reduce the deficit to 10-8 and then Williams scored a try himself with ten minutes to go to give the Sea Eagles a 12-10 win.

    Halfback Daly Cherry-Evans was great for Manly and it was a fabulous battle between he and Cronk on the day.

    But the celebrations for the victors were tempered by the fact popular forward Jamie Buhrer had torn his anterior cruciate ligament and would be out for the rest of the season. It was his second such injury in less than a year.

    Manly Sea Eagles half Daly Cherry-Evans passing

    2012 . . . Dragons snatch victory from the jaws of defeat
    This was one straight off the top shelf of incredible comebacks, never-say-die efforts, and late steals – whatever you want to call it, it was superb.

    Four minutes to go at Allianz Stadium and the Sydney Roosters have an eight-point lead over St George Illawarra. Game over, right? Even if the Dragons come back with one try, they haven’t got time to get another, right?

    Wrong.

    After the Roosters had increased their lead to 24-16 through a Braith Anasta penalty goal, the Dragons went for a short kick-off and came up trumps by regathering. There was life in them yet, but they still needed to come up with pretty much a football miracle. Could it be? Yes.

    Jason Nightingale, who had regathered the kick-off, put Matt Prior over for a try soon after. Jamie Soward converted from the sideline to make it 24-22 and suddenly the Roosters were entitled to be getting a little nervous. But, still, the odds were with them, right?

    Well, the odds might have been with them, but not the football gods.

    The Dragons made it a long way downfield from their set after the kick-off and Nightingale became a major factor again, kicking a loose ball into the in-goal and forcing a Roosters drop-out. Four tackles later and inside the final minute, Ben Creagh scored a try and the Dragons won, 28-24.

    The players and their fans celebrated wildly and after defeat had looked certain just a few minutes earlier it turned into a magnificent way for Ben Hornby to break Dragons legend Norm Provan’s record of 257 first-grade games in front of a packed house of 40,164 fans.

    2009: Not even 90 minutes can separate the Storm and Warriors
    When 80 minutes of football isn’t enough to find a winner in the NRL we tack on another ten and the fans weren’t complaining when the clash between Melbourne and the Warriors at Olympic Park went to golden point extra-time.

    The Storm had led 10-6 at halftime on a rainy day, but by the end of regulation time it was 14-14 and rival halfbacks Cooper Cronk and Stacey Jones had already traded unsuccessful field goal attempts.

    It appeared as if Lance Hohaia had dramatically broken the deadlock in favour of the Warriors when the ball went between the posts from his field goal attempt in the final minute of extra-time, but there was more drama to come.

    The play was reviewed by video referee Tim Mander and the field goal disallowed because of a knock-on by Jones before passing the ball to Hohaia. What a way to end a hugely intense game!

    The Storm had fought hard in the second half and the extra period despite having been reduced to 15 fit players due to match-ending injuries to Kevin Proctor and Anthony Quinn.

    Cameron Smith

    2015: Mother nature unleashes hell on the Dragons and Roosters
    St George Illawarra and the Sydney Roosters were doing battle at Allianz Stadium when a fierce storm hit midway through the first half. Play continued for a short time, but lightning and hail quickly made the conditions wild.

    The scenes were incredible and, obviously, dangerous and officials made a decision in the 27th minute to halt the game and get the players and match officials off the field and into the safety of the dressing rooms. The Dragons led 10-0 at that stage.

    After a 35-minute delay while the weather conditions eased, the remaining 13 minutes of the first half were played and the Dragons went to the break with a 10-6 lead in front of a crowd of 35,110.

    Half-time was reduced to eight minutes and after the players returned they found it difficult in the slippery conditions. Gareth Widdop pushed the lead out to 14-6 with two penalty goals, but the Roosters weren’t done with yet.

    Roger Tuisava-Sheck scored a try and James Maloney converted to cut St George Illawarra’s lead to 14-6, but that was all she wrote as the Dragons held on for their sixth straight win on one of the more incredible days in the competition’s history.

    Asked if he had ever been involved in a match played in similar conditions, Dragons coach and former star player Paul McGregor replied: “Not for three hours. It was a long one, wasn’t it.”

    This Anzac Day, get along to The Star’s 24/7 Sports Bar, the place to watch all the NRL action. You’ll also be able to catch Aussie rock icon Ian Moss and celebrity Two-Up spinners Wendell Sailor, Bryan Fletcher and Mick Crocker. Note: The Star practises the responsible service of alcohol. Guests must be 18 years and over to enter the casino.

    Greg Prichard
    Greg Prichard

    Greg Prichard has spent all of his working life in the media, from way back when journalists were still using typewriters. He has covered rugby league, football, AFL and various other sports for News Limited and Fairfax newspapers and also worked for magazines, radio and pay television. Twitter: @gregprichard

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