New South Wales Blues 6
Goals:Trent Hodkinson 1/1
Queensland Maroons 4
Goals:Jonathan Thurston 2/2
The New South Wales Blues have tonight ended the Queensland Maroons’ dominance of State of Origin with a gutsy 6-4 win at ANZ Stadium that secures their first series triumph since 2005.
In a low-scoring match that featured a try-less first half for the first time since 2000, the Blues scored a 71st minute try to half back Trent Hodkinson and despite some nervous final moments, they hung on to secure the win, and the series, after their 12-8 triumph in game 1.
The sight of Jarryd Hayne racing over his own dead ball line to salute Blues fans was a sight to behold and one that won’t be forgotten for a long time.
The game was brutal, and several times it threatened to boil over as both teams tested the patience of referees Ben Cummins and Shayne Hayne. Opposing five eighths Josh Reynolds and Jonathan Thurston were put on report late in the match when Thurston drove his forearm into Reynolds’ head before the Blues five eighth retaliated angrily.
It was a slow start to the game as both sides focused more on physical intimidation rather than playing rugby league, and the Maroons opened the scoring via a 14th minute penalty goal to Thurston.
Thurston’s 30th minute penalty goal was significant in that he became the greatest point scorer in Origin history, eclipsing Maroons head coach Mal Meninga’s long-standing record of 161. A try-less first half but one of the most entertaining in recent memory left both teams with it all to do in the second half as the Maroons clung to a 4-0 lead.
The Maroons dominated much of the second half, and came close to scoring the first try via Sam Thaiday but replays showed Blues fullback Jarryd Hayne knocked the ball free just before Thaiday grounded it.
The Maroons suffered a blow when veteran winger Brent Tate was forced from the field with a lower leg injury which pushed Chris McQueen out to the right wing position and he dropped a Justin Hodges pass with the line wide open shortly after. One would assume that the ever-reliable Tate would have scored in the same situation.
As the clock wound down, time and fatigue became the Blues’ biggest enemy. Hayne, Hodkinson and Reynolds had not had the same impact as they had in game 1, but then in the 70th minute the moment Blues fans had been waiting for arrived.
Hodkinson drifted left and looked to pass to his wide runners, but a simple dummy put him in the clear and he strolled over untouched, to the delight of the 84,000 fans. He then knocked over the most important conversion of his career to give the Blues the lead with less than 10 minutes left.
The kick-off appeared to sail over the dead ball line on the full and the Blues were awarded a penalty on half way. However replays suggested the ball brushed the jersey of prop Aaron Woods which would have resulted in a Blues drop out.
In a scene reminiscent of game one, a penalty to the Maroons gave them 10 seconds to travel 60 metres and snatch victory from the proverbial jaws of defeat. They spread the ball to the right and a kick down field was gleefully accepted by Hayne who raced back and ran over the dead ball line before raising his arms to the enthusiastic crowd.
With the value of hindsight the Maroons decision to go into the game with several players under injury clouds backfired. Neither Billy Slater, Greg Inglis, Daly Cherry-Evans or skipper Cameron Smith had memorable games. For the Blues, Ryan Hoffman had his best game in a sky blue jersey and was a constant threat down the left edge. Josh Dugan and Will Hopoate were solid, but it wasn’t a game for the outside backs.
The play of the night, in such an epic contest, goes to Blues centre Michael Jennings who, after a Blues grubber was put in, was the only player to race ahead and tackle Maroons centre Justin Hodges, keeping him in goal, and allowing the Blues to maintain the pressure on a tiring Maroons defence.
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