A capacity crowd at Suncorp Stadium saw a thoroughly entertaining game featuring big hits, strong running, ball movement, knock-ons and great footy played at high pace – with a whole lot of feeling thrown in – that was well won by a NSW side that finished with 11 men to Queensland's 12.
This was a classic Origin. There was some huge defence, great tries and near-tries (Justin Hodges' effort the most amazing thing you'll see outside a circus) and the players wanted to tear each other's heads off right until the last seconds. And then shook hands.
The Game Swung When… The Blues’ defence was brutal in the opening stanzas and forced several knock-ons by Queensland. That said, the Maroons’ defence was brutal in the opening stanzas and forced several knock-ons by NSW. But the Blues’ defence was better and harder overall, and the points flowed from it.
Late in the first half came Origin's first ever eight-point try after Johnathan Thurston lunged a boot at the ball as David Williams was putting it down over the line. Gidley's two conversions made it 14-6 at half-time.
Queensland hit back straight after with a try to Justin Hodges but Thurston could not convert from the sideline.
Minutes later Trent Barrett ran hard and well and fed a fine ball in the tackle for Josh Morris to plant the ball over. Gidley converted and it was 20-10 and the Blues were never headed.
In the 54th minute Greg Inglis set sail down the left on a typically menacing run down the line, brushing off Williams with that huge, perfectly timed fend. Before he came to fullback Kurt Gidley he dropped the ball onto his boot, the ball bouncing in the in-goal where Billy Slater did brilliantly to touch down despite Williams' attention. Great try.
Five minutes later the Blues turned the ball over on the first tackle. Then Trent Waterhouse was penalised for a headlock on Steve Price. Waterhouse was stiff but it was a bad double-whammy for the Blues which would have been costly had Willie Tonga not dropped the ball over the line courtesy of Gidley's knee.
And then the game-breaking try: From 10 metres out Ben Creagh took the ball into the stretched and ragged line of maroon jumpers that represented the Queensland defence, brushing through two tackles, stepping another and plunging the ball over for his second four-pointer.
And then, with the game over, the players spent the last five minutes fighting.
Who Was Hot… Anthony Watmough was best on ground. He defended like an octopus with muscles, made several fine busts up the middle and was constantly dangerous.
Jarryd Hayne ran with menace down the left, Glenn Stewart did some nice things and Creagh scored two tries.
Dallas Johnson showed more with the ball than he has all series. There was ball-playing and running and he scored a try. And he made a game-high 38 tackles.
Greg Inglis was a typically massive handful and brushed off a pretty good defender in David Williams with ease several times. The best fend in the game.
Who Was Not...Queensland's first try came from what's become a common sight for NSW supporters: a blunder. Winger Williams slid in on the dewy surface to collect a Thurston grubber when just picking it up would have sufficed. The ball bobbled out of his hands, out of Kurt Gidley's and then Wolfman took out Gidley as the pair ran for the ball. Michael Jennings got there too late to stop Johnson plunging upon it. Queensland got four points, adjacent the posts, courtesy of a blue by Blue.
David Williams was brushed off by big fends four times and fumbled before the Maroons’ first try. He made amends in the last 10 minutes shutting down Neville Costigan with a three-man overlap.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… Josh Perry was hit by Steven Price in the opening salvos like a bull running into a barrel of beer.
Brett Kimmorley was brushed off by Hodges then caught out for pace by Darius Boyd. But the little old fellow kept running down field and eventually took an intercept to halt the passage. The legs aren't as nippy but they're still working.
And then, in the 32nd minute, an attempt at a try the likes of which have never been seen before. Karmichael Hunt put through a grubber kick that bounced high in the air in the in-goal, the ball certain to go dead. Yet Hodges came running in and leapt like a trout on a flying trapeze and took the ball high in the air, like an Olympic high-jumper, before trying to plant it just inside the line. It was a magnificent effort. But it was no try, the ball just becoming detached from his fingers and landing on the line. But oh! What a spectacular piece of rugby league. You'll never see its like again.
Brett Kimmorley, legs older than the pyramids, somehow managed to run down Inglis and drag him into touch with 10 minutes to go. Great effort.
Bad Boys… Thurston led with the boot trying to stop Williams' try and was put on report by Shayne Hayne. He’ll escape suspension with an early guilty plea.
In the final minutes Brett White and Steven Price stood toe to toe in the middle of the field and traded punches. Players came in to sort it out, Trent Waterhouse being the first. He grabbed Price and tackled him and was sent off for being next man in. Price took no further part being heavily concussed.
Waterhouse will miss two weeks on the sideline for his action.
In the last minutes Creagh and Sam Thaiday were sent to the Sin Bin, the former for coming in to sort out another melee, the latter for taking out Anthony Watmough on a kick-chase.
Refs Watch… In the first five minutes Tony Archer and Hayne penalised a team each for being inside the 10-metre line.
Thurston was hit hard and late by Brett White after a kick-through. Minutes later Kimmorley was hit late by Price.
After Thurston's effort with the boot to stop Williams' try a “possible” eight-point try was awarded. The locals didn't like it and the Maroons were confused. Super-technically it should not have been an eight-pointer – he didn't kick at the ball in the act of Williams planting it because Williams already had.
Overall the officials probably got most things right in a highly emotive affair.
NRL.com Best & Fairest… 3 points – Anthony Watmough (Blues): Aggressive and effective defence, ball skills and damaging, dynamic, penetrative running. Best on ground; 2 points – Greg Inglis (Maroons): Palmed off the Blues’ defence like rag dolls and ran like a giant stallion; 1 point – Brett Kimmorley (Blues): Kicked well, competed hard and made 34 tackles.
Blues 28 (B Creagh 2, D Williams, J Morris tries; K Gidley 3, M Ennis 3 goals) def Maroons 16 (D Johnson, J Hodges, B Slater tries; J Thurston 2 goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Crowd: 52,316.