Damien Cook was a real threat in game one. Picture: Cameron Spencer
Damien Cook was a real threat in game one. Picture: Cameron Spencer

Brutal Origin battle to take toll on club sides

NEWCASTLE have long wanted State of Origin stars.

But the Knights will have to learn to win without them with Knights coach Nathan Brown leaning towards resting both his Origin players Kalyn Ponga and David Klemmer - with a final decision to be made on Thursday.

If Ponga is withdrawn from the Friday night clash it could pave the way for Tautau Moga to play his first NRL game this season following his fourth knee reconstruction. Winger Edrick Lee would shift from the wing to fullback.

The Knights are still haunted by Ponga's hamstring injury which he suffered six days after his Origin debut last year which ruled him out of a handful of games for the Knights.

Ponga was a marked man to start the match on Wednesday night. Having embarrassed Tyson Frizell when the two last met, the Dragons forward made a bee-line for the Maroons fullback, clashing heavily in the opening exchanges.

Josh King and Pasami Saulo are on stand-by if Klemmer is ruled out. Klemmer had a strong unbroken 51-minute Origin stint but did not return to the field.

Blues coach Brad Fittler said Klemmer's impact made it impossible to drag him off.

"He was going well," Fittler said. "You put a plan together. Didn't give us a reason to bring him off. He did a really good job for us."

The Knights play a South Sydney side which is another litmus for a high flying Newcastle side.

Ponga was involved in everything in the series opener. (AAP Image/Darren England)
Ponga was involved in everything in the series opener. (AAP Image/Darren England) DARREN ENGLAND

The Rabbitohs have concerns of their own. Coach Wayne Bennett has already said Blues hooker Damien Cook would struggle to back-up while Cody Walker and Cameron Murray will have to do so 48 hours after their Origin debut.

The Broncos were dealt a blow when Maroons interchange forward Joe Ofahengaue limped from the field with a deep cut to his leg after just 13 minutes of the second half.

The injury leaves him in severe doubt for their clash against Gold Coast on Sunday.

Canberra's Nick Cotric sent a scare through the Raiders camp when he staggered to his feet with a knee injury but finished the game despite looking hampered. Cotric was unsure about the damage.

"It's behind the knee," Fittler said. "I didn't get a clear call. He was a bit vague himself. He was fantastic."

 

At the Sharks, veteran centre Josh Morris has been left out of John Morris' 21-man squad. Morris will be rested from Cronulla's home game against Parramatta on Saturday.

Josh Morris has been left out of the Sharks side. Image: Jono Searle/Getty Images)
Josh Morris has been left out of the Sharks side. Image: Jono Searle/Getty Images)

Josh Dugan and Bronson Xerri have been named in the centres for the Sharks.

A host of clubs have named their representative stars on an extended interchange bench. St George Illawarra's Frizell will battle to back-up while Dragons teammates Paul Vaughan and Ben Hunt have been named on the bench to play Canterbury.

Hunt made a career high 54 tackles.

Maroons prop Dylan Napa is also on an extended bench while Roosters coach Trent Robinson showed last year he was not afraid to give his Origin stars a break.

Manly duo Jake Trbojevic and Daly Cherry-Evans need to travel to Townsville to take their places.

News Corp Australia


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