XXXX Maroons Make History!

After a determined victory in Game 1 of the 2009 State of Origin Series, the Queensland Maroons were one win away from becoming the first side in the history of Origin to win four series straight. Locky and the boys had a lot to play for.

Up the other end of the paddock, the NSW Blues had it all to play for too – none of their blokes wanted to be a part of the first team in history to lose four on the trot.

Come the opening whistle and we all expected more fireworks than New Years Eve on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but instead we saw a Blues team fail to fire in all aspects of the game. They coughed up possession in their red zone on countless occasions, they fell off regulation tackles and handed one of the best Maroons backlines of all time 18 of the softest Origin points ever scored.

Greg Inglis looked like he was playing against the Redcliffe under 12s, although a team full of Redcliffe 11-year-olds would ‘ve had more ticker.

Only some Trent Barrett thuggery and Jarryd Hayne’s brilliance kept the Blues in it at halftime. Then Game 2 started… properly.

Our Queensland boys new they were on the edge of greatness and they knew that NSW would dig deep, so they played accordingly. The likes of Michael Crocker, Sam Thaiday, Petero Civoniceva and Steve Price ground out the win with resolute defence and in Price’s case a momentum halting charge-down which – along with Johnathan Thurston’s all-round performance – arguably won the match and sealed the series for the Maroons. In the end, NSW cracked, fumbling a loose ball on their tryline and gifting our boys yet another try, this time to Cameron Smith. Game over. 24-14.

Then the celebrations began. No doubt we’ll be celebrating again in Game 3 at Suncorp! Good job boys.

Pic: The boys up front got the job done.

Two Late Tries Help the Titans Topple the Rabbitohs

Despite a gallant performance from Souths – who led the match 8-6 at halftime – the Gold Coast were able to scrape home with four-pointers from Matt Rogers and Anthony Laffranchi late in the game.

Pic: Laffranchi crashes over to take victory

The win puts the Titans on 6 wins and 2 losses for the season and up into 4th place on the ladder behind the Dragons and Broncos who only lead them on points difference. The Doggies are out in front with just the one loss.

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Ford Clean-Sweep at Australian F1GP

There were no points at stake when the V8s hit the streets of Melbourne’s Albert Park at last weekend’s Australian F1GP, but you wouldn’t have known it based on the no-holds-barred racing the “Manufacturers Challenge” tossed up.

TeamVodafone’s Craig Lowndes served notice of his Championship intentions to his teammate - XXXX GOLD Ambassador Driver Jamie WhinCup - with a 1-2-1 result over the meet’s three races.

Another XXXX GOLD Ambassador Driver - Mark Winterbottom - stuck his hand up as a serious title threat with a solid 2-1-2 performance which saw him claim second Overall and make the weekend a clean-sweep for the blue oval.

The non-competition round wasn’t without highlight for the red half of the field as HRT new-boy Will Davison steered his machine to a 2-3-4 finish and showed that he has the pace and consistency to contend at the pointy end of the field in ‘09.

Meanwhile, XXXX GOLD Ambassador Drivers and title favourites - Garth Tander and Jamie Whincup - both had their weekends hampered by mechanical gremlins. Let’s hope they iron those problems out before the next round in Hamilton, NZ on April 17-19.

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Bulls into Sheffield Shield Final

Last weekend’s draw against the undefeated Victorians has set up a classic season decider between two teams who’ve squared off on numerous occasions over the summer.

The final match of the regular Shield season saw the Bushrangers - who rested several key players - amass an enormous first innings total of 8/806(dec) in reply to the Bulls 302. The insurmountable target set by the Vics essentially ended the contest and made the Bushrangers the first state side in 30 years not to concede a single point to their competition throughout an entire season. Despite that, Vics skipper Cameron White knows if they don’t claim victory in the final, their record-breaking season counts for nothing.

[Cameron White watches his side sail into the history books]

The Victorians have already lost two domestic finals this season - the KFC Twenty20 Big Bash decider against the NSW Blues and the Ford Ranger Cup against the Bulls. In both fixtures, the Big V were favourites for the silverware, and they are at almost unbackable odds to win here. The question is can they handle the pressure or will they choke at the final hurdle once again?

Catch all the action live on Fox Sports 3 from Friday, March 13 or click here for live scores and updates

XXXX Gold Hook ‘n’ Cook

If ya like XXXX GOLD and ya don’t mind a spot of angling of an arvo, you’ll know the two go together like XXXX GOLD and pretty much everything… like, er, XXXX GOLD battered fish!

Speaking of a fry up, fishing and beer (it’s a bloody strange coincidence if ya ask me), XXXX GOLD have had a yarn to our mate’s at and they now feature the XXXX GOLD Hook ‘n’ Cook page. You can enter your cooking tips and vote on the best recipe…

Click here for a serve…

Bulls in Box Seat

Last weekend’s demolition of the NSW Blues by an innings and 129 runs, has the XXXX GOLD Queensland Bulls with one foot in the 2009 Weet Bix Sheffield Shield Final against the Victorians on March 13.

A stunning double-century from Bulls veteran Martin Love in his Gabba swansong was the highlight of the match. Love arrived at the crease with Queensland at 1/10 and, after nine hours of near-faultless batting, he walked off the ground undefeated on 219 when Bulls skipper Chris Simpson declared at 587.

Martin Love

Bulls keeper Chris Hartley chipped in with a career-best performance of 10 catches behind the wicket and a knock of 121, which would ordinarily have earned him man of the match honours, but the day belonged to Love.

In their final match of the regular season, The XXXX GOLD Bulls head down the east coast to the MCG to confront the undefeated Bushrangers. The Vics, however, will not field a full-strength side, opting to rest a number of their key quick men ahead of the final in just over a week’s time.

With the Tasmanians in need of a miracle to overhaul the Bulls in the last round, the Vics’ plan to rest their fast men could make the Bulls’ passage into the final that bit easier.

Given the Bulls get the W, the Vics will have reason to be concerned. The Bushrangers lost the Ford Ranger Cup Final to the Bulls just under a fortnight ago, in what can only be described as a colossal choke. Chuck in the fact they’ve lost their last four domestic finals in a row in all competitions and the scene is set - they simply have to win or they risk being tagged the biggest chokers in Aussie sport.

The Queensland camp are only too aware of the pressure bearing down on the Victorians and they’re confident they can exploit it to claim the silverware.

Broncos, Cowboys & Titans’ Final Pre-Season Hit-outs

No Queensland-based NRL club has recorded a victory in their final pre-season match before the regular season kicks off on March 13.

Darren Lockyer returned to the Broncos line-up to “blow out the cobwebs” in preparation for their opening round derby against “Bitter Rivals” the North Queensland Cowboys. Lockyer had intended to sit out all three of the side’s pre-season games but the decision to play against the Storm was a good one as his performance was marred by uncharacteristic mistakes due to a lack of game time. Despite losing 20-6, the Brisbane outfit are confident of a good result in Round 1.

The Titans 34-12 loss at the hands of the NZ Warriors wasn’t without positives according to coach John Cartwright, who felt that his side was a match for the Kiwis when he had his strongest combinations on the park. He was also impressed with the return of several first-teamers, especially Mark Minichello (below).

It wasn’t a win, but the North Queensland Cowboys didn’t get beat either - their 18-all result against the Panthers showcased the team’s new resolve under new coach Neil Henry as they came back from an 18-12 deficit, and a one-sided penalty count to clinch a draw with just minutes to go.

Watson Back for Bulls

Injury-prone Aussie all-rounder, Shane Watson has made his return to first class cricket for the XXXX GOLD Queensland Bulls this morning, after a two-month lay-off with a stress fracture in his back. Selected only as a batsman, Watson failed to trouble the scorers, lasting only three balls before heading back to the pavilion.

The penultimate match of the Bulls’ regular season is delicately poised after the northerners threw away an excellent start to the the day to limp into the lunch break at 3/83. Former test batsman and Bulls veteran, Martin Love anchored the innings with an unbeaten 32, which has helped bring the Queenslanders to within 187 runs of NSW’s 269-run total.

A win against the Blues is a must of the Bulls hope to face Victoria’s Bushrangers in what would be an intriguing final; the Bulls having “crushed” the Vics in the Ford Ranger Cup just a week ago.

Queensland currently sit two points behind Tasmania in third place on the ladder, with WA trailing the Bulls by the same margin. The Taswegians have their work cut out for them after the Vics posted an imposing total of 535 in their first dig, while the Sandgropers are in trouble with the SACAs at 1/102 in reply to their meagre total of 243. Go Bulls!

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Bulls Crush Bushrangers

Congratulations to the XXXX GOLD Queensland Bulls - 2008-09 Ford Ranger Cup Champions!

Chris Hartley en route to victory

The XXXX GOLD Queensland Bulls have put together an astonishing performance in the field to defend a meagre total of 8/187 and claim their second one-day domestic title in three seasons at the MCG last night.

Despite winning the toss, the Bulls’ top order crumbled to 5/56 before Glen Batticciotto (40) and Chris Hartley put on 67 for the sixth wicket to steady the innings. Hartley then teamed up with Chris Swan at 8/133 in the 42nd over, and put on better than a run a ball to post the below-par target of 8/187.

But, according to Bulls skipper Chris Simpson, some typical Queensland spirit was enough to get his side over the top of Victoria.

"We didn’t get enough runs on the board but [we] didn’t care,” he said. “We stuck at it and did what we do well. So congratulations boys, we put our hand on our heart with a fair bit of pride tonight.”

Victoria appeared to be cruising to victory at 1/72 before Brad Hodge was trapped in front by Chris Swan. Hodge’s demise sparked a mini-collapse, with the Vics losing 4/26 in an eight-over spell. The quick succession of wickets cracked the Bushrangers’ delicate psyche bringing back memories of their capitulation in another MCG one-day match against the Bulls earlier this month where they failed to overcome a modest total.

Man of the match Nathan Rimmington claimed 4/40 and Ben Laughlin’s 3/25 ripped the heart out the Bushrangers’ batting line-up, relegating the Big V to their fourth consecutive domestic final loss.

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XXXX Queensland Maroons team announced

QRL Chairman John McDonald and Chairman of Selectors Des Morris today announced the XXXX Maroons team to play New South Wales in the opening match of the Harvey Norman State of Origin Series in Sydney.

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