State of Origin II: Five key points
There were some good signs from the Blues but not enough to match a legendary Queensland team playing in front of a bumper Suncorp Stadium crowd.
There's something about a team from Queensland. The Maroons struggled to obtain any momentum for much of the first half, yet they went into half-time with the lead. Queensland refuse to give up and it seems they always know that the tide will turn. It turned, and fast. A pair of tries before and after half-time gave the Maroons breathing space and a 10th Origin series win in 11 years was all but secured. It now confines the Blues to a terrible recent record at Suncorp Stadium, with New South Wales having lost nine of their last eleven at the venue and been outscored 295-138 in those matches.
The first four scoring opportunities of the match resulted in four penalty goals, with two going to each state. The Origin crowd at one point needed to question if they were watching rugby league or rugby union as the two sides traded blows between the sticks. It's the current trend in rugby league to take the two points when they are on offer, but the question needs to be asked, is it always the best option? Tries have been a rare commodity for New South Wales at Suncorp Stadium and perhaps it would have been far more beneficial for the Blues to take a chance and push for a greater lead. The fact New South Wales have only managed five tries in their past four matches at Lang Park adds weight to this argument, but instead they opted for the safe option and ultimately settled for an early 4-all scoreline. Queensland rubbed salt into the wounds of the Blues when they opened the scoring against the run of play with a brilliant intercept try that gave the Maroons momentum heading into half-time. It took Queensland just seven minutes into the second half to score again and New South Wales suddenly had a huge task ahead of them.
Gagai great – Frizell not quite fast enough
Queensland winger Dane Gagai scored a spectacular intercept try to begin his hat-trick, but he was almost upstaged by a Tyson Frizell chase that encapsulated what it means to these players to represent their state. Gagai intercepted a Josh Mansour mistake on Queensland's 20-metre line and beat the Blues winger to have 80 metres of clear Lang Park turf in front of him. It appeared Gagai would stroll over with no NSW backline player to chase him down. Enter Frizell.
New South Wales' second-row forward came from nowhere to produce an outstanding ankle tap on the much quicker Gagai. It made Gagai fall metres short of the try line, but he managed to slide over for a try despite the best efforts of Blake Ferguson who came in late and tried to push the sliding Queenslander over the sideline. Frizell's chase was pure heart and determination, and the Blue on debut deserved to be rewarded for his efforts. Had his teammates shown the same desire Gagai may not have scored. It started a stellar night for Gagai, with the star winger scoring a hat-trick of tries.
Master teaches the apprentice
The build-up to State of Origin featured a lot of talk about the battle between a Maroons legend and a Blues newcomer. It took less than five minutes for Greg Inglis to palm off Dylan Walker and it was a sign off things to come for the young New South Welshman starting in Origin for the first time. Moments later Inglis was tackled without the ball by Walker and it was clear that the very thought of Inglis was enough to give the Sea Eagles utility nightmares. That penalty made the score 2-0 and gifted momentum to the Queenslanders. Walker gave away another penalty to Inglis in the 19th minute for holding down the man. It ultimately led to another penalty goal for the Maroons as Walker found himself trying too hard to stop the Queensland enforcer.
Queensland's left side continued to look dangerous throughout the match, with only an Andrew Fifita try-saving tackle preventing Corey Oates from scoring in the corner on the stroke of half-time. The second half started off where it left off, with a Gorden Tallis-like tackle from Inglis propelling Walker towards the sideline. It would have been another classic Origin moment if not for the intervention of Blake Ferguson. To Walker's credit, the young centre did produce a number of solid tackles throughout the night that stifled Queensland's moment, but Inglis's high work rate constantly troubled the Blues' right side defence. Inglis finished with 140 metres from 17 runs in a great performance from the Queenslander.
Scintillating Suncorp Stadium
A total of 52,293 fans came out to Lang Park to witness a cracking contest and they did not leave disappointed. A hostile crowd was treated to the site of Billy Moore sculling a XXXX Gold and yelling 'Queenslander' before the match and from there the atmosphere continued to grow. The sound at times was almost deafening, with 50,000 of the crowd in Maroon and willing their team home. The cauldron erupted with seven minutes to go when young winger Corey Oates crossed in the corner to seal the game and the series. Suncorp Stadium proved again on Wednesday night that it's the home of rugby league.