Maroons win up there with best: Smith
Maroons skipper Cameron Smith has played in 41 Origin games but ranks Wednesday night's 18-16 win over New South Wales as one of the best he can recall.
It was a big statement from the 34-year-old but given his experience in the State of Origin arena, few would doubt his opinion after the Maroons triumphed despite one of the most high-pressure build-ups in years after going down in Game One.
The Maroons were courageous and spirited in their come-from-behind victory over the Blues with Dane Gagai's 77th-minute try and Johnathan Thurston's cool conversion sending the series into a decider at Suncorp Stadium on July 12.
"Given four debutants – apparently one not many people know him – so that was a fair effort playing with '16 men', away from home in Sydney in front of a crowd that was hostile," Smith said after the win.
"New South Wales were very confident and you could tell with the start they had. We just spoke about composure and there were a couple of areas we let ourselves down in the first half and we knew where we needed to be better.
"We had to fix up a few things defensively where we allowed New South Wales momentum and placing pressure on ourselves.
"I thought as the second half went on we gained ascendency and put pressure on New South Wales. It helps having older guys in the side no doubt, but the young guys did a great job tonight."
Queensland coach Kevin Walters has been around the Maroons set-up long enough to know his side was always a chance to steal victory when it mattered.
With arguably four of some of the greatest players to ever play the game, the message from Walters was simple when the Maroons trailed by 10 at the break.
"To be honest at half-time we were quite positive," Walters said.
"This Queensland team have got so many champions in it so you always think you're a chance regardless of the scoreboard.
"I thought that movement where Michael Morgan didn't score before half-time, it was positive thing to go in on. If you cast your mind back to Game One, NSW scored and it's always tough for teams and players."
With a build-up not experienced by the Maroons for over a decade with mass team changes headlining a potential changing of the guard, the side turned things around and now head into the Origin decider with all the momentum.
"We were all disappointed with all of our efforts in Game One, we weren't good enough and it was a steely determination regardless of what NSW were doing, to fix up our own backyard in a few areas," Walters said.
"People have opinions on Origin but we form our own opinions with our side and how we play things and that worked well for us.
"I was just happy for the players, they've been put through the ringer since the team was announced and like the true champions they are, they responded in a way that would be normal from my thinking.
"We had 17 good players out there and needed 17 to get that result tonight."
Smith echoed his coach's thoughts and said some of the team's inexperienced players will benefit the most from the victory.
"There has been a lot of talk about this team, not only this match but in the first game," he said.
"To put us in the position with the series level and go back home with the series level – it's a pretty special effort.
"I'm just pleased for all the boys."