Moylan further presses Origin claims
He may not be the bookies' choice as the Blues fullback for State of Origin I but Penrith five-eighth Jamie Soward says there is nothing more Matt Moylan can do to earn his highest representative honour to date.
Playing with a fractured hand that was heavily bandaged, Moylan almost carried the Panthers to an extraordinary win over the Broncos on Friday night, kicking two penalty goals and potting a field goal with five minutes to play to give his side the lead despite not scoring a try.
Bronco Ben Hunt came up with the match-winning play 40 seconds from full-time to see Brisbane maintain their position at the top of the table, but in a losing team Moylan was again one of the best players on the field.
When the Broncos were held up over the line on four separate occasions it was Moylan underneath helping to prevent the tries from being scored and in attack he always threatened to create opportunities through the middle third of the field.
Nursing a fractured hand and fingers that had been dislocated in the Country-City fixture just five days earlier, Moylan's toughness combined with his composure makes him an ideal Origin candidate according to Soward.
"He's a fantastic kid, really standing out. He's only played 40 or so games and he's going to be there or thereabouts pushing [for selection]," said Soward, who represented NSW in the 2011 Series.
"I don't think anyone can push his New South Wales claims any more than he has. He's getting a lot of media attention from it and he's living up to the hype.
"We're definitely all behind him and hopefully he gets that jumper."
While doubts had been raised all week whether the 23-year-old would be fit to take his place for the injury-ravaged Panthers, coach Ivan Cleary said there was never any question he would play, another attribute he shares with the game's best players.
"He was always going to play, a very tough effort I thought. Never for one minute was he not going to play," Cleary said.
"That's what you look for in your players, especially your key players. He's a young man still learning the game and that's all part of it. You've got to play with a bit of pain sometimes and he did that tonight and I thought it was a good effort."
Friday night's three-point loss wasn't just another major learning curve for a young Penrith team trying to keep pace with the competition, with Soward forced to face some harsh realities in his return from a back injury.
Having not played since Round 2, Soward was highly critical of his own role in allowing Brisbane to snatch victory in the final minute, blaming his kick dead in-goal at one end and missed tackle on Corey Oates at the other for the loss.
The truth was that Soward brought much-needed stability to the Penrith halves in a game that he says will stay with the young players in the squad for many years to come.
"I think [a loss such as Friday night's] will be beneficial for the next five to 10 years for them," Soward said. "It's a big game tonight and you take lessons out of tonight; I've been around for a long time and I'm still learning lessons.
"They've learnt a couple of lessons the last month or two and they learned another one tonight and hopefully we can fix that up.
"I was the one that came up with the two big plays at the end there that cost us but we've got a really good bunch of blokes here. It's a tough one to take but we've got guys here who have played five, six or 10 first grade games who are picking you up so we're very blessed to have them.
"We've got a lot of young guys here who have come into first grade and it's been a tough period for them but they've all stood up and played really well.
"They're the top team the Broncos, they're a Wayne Bennett coached side and 8-5, it's a pretty good game.
"People who like to see points won't be happy with it but I think any purist will look at that and see two quality teams bashed each other for 80 minutes and in the end we come up just short."