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2014 Origin rewind: Blues end eight-year nightmare

As part of a new series looking back at four decades of State of Origin football, NRL.com revisits the 2014 series when Paul Gallen's Blues finally ended Queensland's unprecedented eight-year reign.

NSW made amends for squandering a win in Laurie Daley's first game as coach in 2013 by finally ending an eight-year nightmare with gritty wins in the opening two matches of the 2014 State of Origin series.

It was a tale of two halves to kick off the series - the Blues missing Mitchell Pearce due to off-field indiscretions before hostilities commenced and the Maroons losing Cooper Cronk to a broken arm early in Game One.

Daley elected to go with Bulldogs Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds in the halves and stuck with them for the series, the playmaking continuity proving vital for NSW who had chopped and changed too often during the losing streak. 

Rookie Daly-Cherry Evans, in the Queensland team as bench utility, struggled when forced to step in for Cronk at short notice and by the time the Storm veteran returned for Game Three the series was lost.

There was no clean sweep to complete the fairytale, Queensland finally ending the series-long arm wrestle by turning a 6-2 halftime lead into a 32-8 romp in Game Three.

That meant the Maroons had outscored the Blues 44-26 over the course of the series.

Game One, Blues 12 bt Maroons 8 at Suncorp Stadium

Daniel Tupou joined Hodkinson in making his debut for NSW while Jarryd Hayne, Beau Scott and Tony Williams earned recalls. For the Maroons, Aidan Guerra made his debut and Matt Gillet earned his first start.

Queensland scored first through winger Darius Boyd in the fifth minute for a 4-0 lead but Cronk broke his arm shortly afterwards then midway through the first half Brett Morris opened NSW's account. A Hayne try stretched the Blues' advantage to 10-4 at half-time.

Full Match Replay: Maroons v Blues - Game 1, 2014

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Boyd scored the only try of the second half in the 57th minutes but Thurston, who had started the match needing just four points to pass his coach Mal Meninga as the greatest point-scorer in Origin history, again missed the conversion.

Hodkinson had kicked a penalty goal four minutes into the second stanza and that provided the final 12-8 scoreline - although not until Boyd was denied a hat-trick when former Dragons team-mate Morris dragged him down just short of the try-line with five minutes left. 

The postscript to that moment of desperation was the diagnosis of a fractured shoulder, suffered when he scored his try, which ruled Morris out for the rest of the series. 

Game Two, Blues 6 bt Maroons 4 at ANZ Stadium

The margins got even tighter as the two sides wrestled for the upper hand, bad tempers and brutal defence leading to a number of flare-ups and very little flowing football.

Johnathan Thurston finally passed Meninga at his second attempt, booting two penalties in the opening 40 minutes that took him to top spot on the Origin point-scorers list and gave Queensland a slender 4-0 half-time lead.

The Maroons came out firing after the break and looked to have extended their lead when Greg Inglis pulled off a one-on-one strip of Josh Reynolds deep in NSW territory and the ball went to Sam Thaiday, back after missing the opener because of injury, who crashed over.

Full Match Replay: Blues v Maroons - Game 2, 2014

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But he didn't get the ball down, Hayne knocking the Steeden loose, and the Blues took that shift in momentum and ran with it.

Unfortunately they struggled to turn pressure into points until Hodkinson, criticised for not running the ball enough, produced the try and subsequent conversion that sealed the deal for the Blues.

It was Queensland coach Meninga's only series loss.

Game Three, Maroons 32 bt Blues 8 at Suncorp Stadium

The Blue Wall that kept Queensland's stars in check for the first two games held firm in the opening exchanges, conceding Queensland's first try in the shadows of halftime, but once it was breached the four-pointers came in bunches.

Maybe it was the half-time ceremony honouring the former players who had played a part in the Maroons' record run.

Cameron Smith scored in the 38th minute and Billy Slater in the 44th for a 12-2 lead but it was still a contest when Josh Dugan crossed in the 61st minute to make the score 14-8.

The collapse when it came was swift and complete. Tries to Boyd (71min), Guerra (74) and a returning Cooper Cronk (78) turned the arm wrestle into a rout.

The victory made Maroons great Smith the first player to win 20 State of Origin games.

Match Highlights: Maroons v Blues

Play of the series

NSW were on top in the closing stages of Game Two but couldn't find a way to convert that advantage into points. The NSW forwards, led by skipper Paul Gallen and Greg Bird, tried to bash their way to victory but it was unsung Bulldogs halfback Hodkinson who finally breached Queensland's defences.

Hodkinson was at first receiver 10 metres out to the left of the uprights when he received the ball from dummy-half Robbie Farah in the 71st minute. He dummied to Ryan Hoffman before slicing through untouched for the four-pointer that levelled the scores then nervelessly converted his try to give NSW the win and the series.  

Trent Hodkinson crosses for the match-winner in Game Two.
Trent Hodkinson crosses for the match-winner in Game Two.

Best player

Paul Gallen was named man of the series but just as important as his deeds on the field was the way the Blues adopted their captain's persona.

Gallen's game was built on physicality and antagonism, and his fellow forwards so enthusiastically followed his lead that NSW struggled to turn their dominance into points when they had the series at their mercy in the second half of Game Two.

Gal was also more than happy to play the villain - even more so if it meant sending Queenslanders into a rage - and he was on his "game" from the start in 2014, dropping his infamous "two heads" line at a Blues lunch in the build-up to the series opener.

Switching from lock to prop, Gallen won the man of the match award in Game Two after churning out 200 metres from 24 carries in 69 minutes of action.  

Extended Highlights: Blues v Maroons

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The quote

"When we win the series 2-1 this year and end Queensland's eight-year winning streak." - Craig Young turns Nostradamus while nominating his favourite Origin moment in a Sydney Morning Herald piece celebrating 100 State of Origins - five days before the 2014 series opener.

Unsung hero

Blues five-eighth Josh Reynolds didn't get on the scoreboard the entire series but he ensured one of Queensland's most potent weapons barely troubled the scorers either as NSW claimed the series with gritty wins in the opening two clashes.

Maroons pivot Johnathan Thurston, who tallied just four points while kicking two from four in games one and two, admitted that Reynolds' niggling had put him off his game.

Thurston later told Channel 9: "Josh Reynolds had a really good series. He was a real pain in my backside that series and got underneath my skin and just kept coming after me. I was like 'will this guy just leave me alone?'"

Josh Reynolds, Robbie Farah and Trent Hodkinson celebrate the series triumph in 2014.
Josh Reynolds, Robbie Farah and Trent Hodkinson celebrate the series triumph in 2014.

The following year

The 2014 breakthrough turned out to be a false dawn for the NSW Blues and their fans with Queensland getting back to their winning ways the following season. A Cooper Cronk field goal gave the Maroons a crucial 11-10 away win at ANZ Stadium and while NSW bounced back with a 26-18 victory at the MCG their hopes of going back-to-back were obliterated by Queensland's record-breaking 52-6 demolition job at Suncorp in the series decider. The Maroons would go on to make it three in a row before Brad Fittler's Blues turned the tables in 2018.