Queensland secured their seventh consecutive State of Origin series victory over New South Wales with a dramatic 21-20 win at their fortress Suncorp Stadium home in Brisbane. The annual three-match Australian interstate series is universally considered as the pinnacle fixture of rugby league, and this year’s series went down tothe decider after Queensland’s controversial 18-10 win in Game One in Melbourne before the NSW ‘Blues’ levelled the series in Sydney, as they edged a classic contest 16-12 to give them a chance of ending Queensland’s six-year dominance in their own back yard.
After possibly the biggest build-up to a State of Origin match ever seen, all eyes were on the sell-out Suncorp Stadium for the decider to see whether the Blues would finally end 6 years of pain or whether the Maroons could assert themselves as contenders for the best team in Origin history by winning a seventh consecutive title.
The match began in the expected brutal and ferocious pattern right from the opening exchanges. The Blues took an early advantage, capitalising on the ground made by a Brett Morris break when they chose to take a penalty goal for Todd Carney’s boot to put them 2-0 ahead. This was bettered in the 18th minute as Brett Morris, who was playing as a three-quarter partner on the right-hand wing alongisde his twin brother for th Blues, Josh went over the for the game’s first try after beating the Queensland defence with a darting run from dummy half. Carney’s conversion making it 8-0 for the visitors.
However, Queensland, who played without fullback Billy Slater, arguably the world’s best rugby player of either code, went on to score the next 16 points of the game. Darius Boyd took a Jonathon Thurston pass and had the strength to go over in the right hand corner pushing his way past opposite Jarryd Hayne to cut the deficit to 8-4.
The Maroons kept pushing with a period of sustained pressure in the NSW half. Anthony Watmough saved one for the Blues, geatting a hand on the ball to knock down a Justin Hodges pass, after a Queensland break which would have seen the home side score only for the second-rower’s intervention.
However, the locals had reason to cheer a few minutes later after Thurston went over. It was Thirston’s dummy and break from his own half which set up the chance. As the ball was spread to the left on the next tackle, it looked as if Corey Parker had blown the opportunity, choosing to ignore the outside men on his left as he went inside, only for him to find Thurston with an offload on the inside for the scrumhalf to crash over. 10-8 to the Maroons with Thurston’s conversion.
After putting the kick-off out on the full, NSW were once again under pressure and Queensland made the most of the opportunity, scoring their third try of the half. Hodges’ evading run across the line, led to him gliding through a gap in the defence to go over. The try was passed to the video referee to adjuciate whether the centre had used one of his teammates as a shepherd to obstruct the defence, but the video referee was happy to give the score the green light. Thurston’s second conversion making it 16-8, which the score remained at halftime.
Following the restart NSW put themselves right back into the match just 6 minutes in, as Robbie Farah’s grubber was grounded by Brett Stewart for the fullbace to score and bring the Blues back within 2.
Queensland took a penalty goal to stretch the score to 18-14 in their favour in the absorbing Origin battle. The Maroons had a chance to score after Cameron Smith’s superb break through midfield and pass inside to Greg Inglis. However, the chasing Blue defenders got to the Maroons’ centre, playing fullback on the night, causing him to crash against the padding of the post and be unable to ground the ball over the try line. Queensland lost possession on the next tackle as the Blues snapped up a loose pass and the chance was gone, raising belief that NSW could finally end their drought.
However, on the 64th minute Queensland slotted over another penalty goal after an accidental high shot by Tony Williams to take the score to 20-14 with a quarter of an hour on the clock. The Blues, still just one converted score behind kept on pressing and in the 70th minute got their reward as Farah’s last-tackle chip to the corner was taken by Josh Morris out of Darius Boyd’s grasp for the Blues man to score. Carney’s excellent touchline conversion making it a level game once more to take the series to a nailbiting finale.
Queensland had the first chance for a dropgoal, with possession in the NSW half and it was all they needed, as Cooper Cronk’s superb dropkick found its way over the bar despite the pressure of the chasing defenders to put the Mrrons 21-10 in front. With time running against the Blues, in the 77th minute they had a chance in the Queensland half, only for Farah to drop the ball under no pressure at the play-the-ball. And the Blues enjoyed one final chance in the frantic last minute, only for the dropgoal attempt to go wide, ensuring that the Maroons held on for another famous series win in another State of Origin classic.