Queensland Maroons 24 def NSW Blues 14
Queensland achieved a record fourth State of Origin series with a blistering display across the park, embarrassing their opponents in a whirlwind opening 40 minutes before weathering a sustained but ultimately futile Blues comeback.
In a start that mirrored their effort in Game One, the Maroons exploded to an 18-0 lead after 25 minutes, with tries to Greg Inglis (fifth minute), Israel Folau (18th minute) and Darren Lockyer – the latter a gift after a slapstick-like Blues error that made their players look like The Keystone Cops.
Inglis was in a class of his own in the opening 20 minutes, pushing off defenders, weaving and igniting the backline out wide – before he was knocked senseless by a careless Trent Barrett swinging arm as he was cleaning up the ball on the ground.
After the early hat-trick it looked like worse was to come when Billy Slater chimed in behind a decoy runner inside the 20-metre line just two minutes later, lofting a pass to the unmarked Folau – but Blues winger Jarryd Hayne sized the threat up magnificently; the Eels ace loitered a little off the sideline, plucked the pass and sprinted 85 metres to score.
Kurt Gidley’s conversion made it 18-6 and Blues’ fans hopes were revived.
But they went back into cardiac arrest when Maroon Willie Tonga bustled for the left corner; the centre was swamped by defenders but managed to offload, the ball appearing to bounce sideways off Blues winger David Williams before Ashley Harrison picked up the spoils to ground over the try line.
However, video refs Bill Harrigan and Tim Mander saw otherwise and ruled ‘No Try’. (In hindsight it appeared Harrison was in front of Tonga when he offloaded, so accidental offside was perhaps the correct ruling.)
Shortly before half-time a well-constructed Blues’ raid saw Hayne injected into the backline, turning the ball inside to back-rower Luke O’Donnell on the 20-metre line. The Cowboy charged hard for the line but was brought down just short. Hayne trailed him through to act as dummy-half, picked up the ball and veered left of marker Israel Folau to plant the ball over the try line.
Again the video refs were called on; despite vision clearly showing O’Donnell obstructing Folau from the play by grabbing him around his waist, they ruled a Benefit of the Doubt green light and it was 18-10 at halftime.
The second half saw plenty of errors and turnovers as both sides’ crunching defences stepped up a notch.
The Blues gained an unlikely sniff when David Williams burrowed through Darius Boyd on the line after a great cut-back run and one-handed offload from Barrett that made it 18-14. Queensland appeared out on their feet and ready for the sword but when Williams inexplicably kicked away possession on the second tackle near the Maroons’ 30-metre line with five minutes to play, it was series over.
A late try to Cameron Smith adjacent to the posts sealed a memorable victory Queensland should have won by considerably more than the 24-14 final scoreline suggested.
Where to now for NSW? Next year it’s back to the drawing board, most likely. Possibly starting with the selectors and coach Craig Bellamy. Of course there’s Game Three in Brisbane – but really, even if NSW wins it won’t mean a thing.
The Game Swung When… Paul Gallen offloaded on the burst without looking on tackle two approaching the Queensland 30-metre line in just the third minute. Luke O’Donnell figured it wasn’t for him so he let it pass by; it bounced and was collected by Folau who sprinted 45 metres, halted only by a desperation drag from Hayne. From there the NSW defence was caught offside; instead of taking the easy two points Queensland elected to run and Thurston put Inglis over with a lovely inside ball.
The Game Was Over When… Robbie Farah fired an ill-directed pass out of dummy-half near the NSW 20-metre line that was too tough for Trent Barrett to claim; it passed another player, evaded a third on the bounce before Darren Lockyer swooped, strolling eight metres to catapult the Maroons to an 18-0 lead.
Who Was Hot… Had he not been injured Greg Inglis could have guided Queensland to a record scoreline. From seven touches in 22 minutes he made two line breaks, six tackle breaks, ran 72 metres and scored a try.
Cameron Smith made all the right decisions at dummy-half (103 touches) and made a game-high 43 tackles, Folau made 130 metres with six tackle breaks. Props Petero Civoniceva and Steven Price laid the platform with 133 metres and 111 metres respectively.
Hayne was the only NSW player who stood tall – two tries, 240 metres and seven tackle breaks.
Who Was Not… Robbie Farah was both forgettable and unforgettable – and for all the wrong reasons. Along with Justin Poore he was responsible for a feeble defensive effort that allowed Folau to stroll over, and his passes from the ruck weren’t Origin standard. He’ll be lucky to play Game Three.
David Williams made a game-high eight tackle breaks and three line breaks but will be best remembered for losing possession three times – one led to a Queensland try. He also kicked away NSW’s last chance in the final stages.
The NSW forwards were largely impotent: Weyman 65 metres, Kite 56 metres, Creagh 37, Gallen 78 metres, Poore 41 metres. Only Luke O’Donnell claimed triple figures (111 metres).
Peter Wallace had 50 receives but did little with the ball and his kicking game was straight down the opposition’s throat.
Michael Crocker had a stinker holding possession, losing it four times in jolting tackles.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… Jarryd Hayne’s hands. His two intercepts were worth a minimum eight points, saving a certain try and providing one.
Also, the Blues’ defence: it was unbelievably bad. While they missed less tackles than Queensland (24-28) they were crucial ones.
But Kurt Gidley’s effort to fell a runaway Inglis in the 15th minute was around-the-ankles copybook.
Refs Watch… The Harrison No Try ruling looks a bad one until you notice try-scorer Harrison was accidentally offside.
The video refs’ decision to award Hayne’s second try looked wrong. Had it cost the Maroons the series we’d have been hearing about it for the next 100 years. Or more.
Refs Tony Archer and Shayne Hayne let the players do their stuff – they blew the penalties 4-2 to Queensland, without a single shrill of the whistle over the concluding half hour.
NRL.com Best & Fairest…
3 points – Cameron Smith (Maroons): His direction was faultless, his defence crucial; 2 points – Greg Inglis (Maroons): Only played 22 minutes but his input was game-defining; 1 point – Jarryd Hayne (Blues): Without Hayne the Blues would have lost by a cricket score.
Maroons 24 (G Inglis, I Folau, D Lockyer, C Smith tries; J Thurston 4 goals) def Blues 14 (J Hayne 2, D Williams tries; K Gidley goal) at ANZ Stadium. Crowd: 80, 459.