They’ve done it again, just when it looked like the Blues were going to take the game and the series away, the mighty Maroons clawed their way back and escaped with an Origin levelling win. It was so typically Queensland and so typically Origin. No Laurie Daley you haven’t just woken up from a bad dream clouded by a Maroon haze that was your worst nightmare played out before your very eyes. QLD won 18-16 in a classic Maroon Origin comeback. We are now heading to Suncorp for the most anticipated decider in Origin history.
Origin Moments – Five Talking Points
1. JT Reigns Supreme
Jonathan Thurston once again proved he is the best player in our game and cannot be beaten for toughness. His shoulder damaged, hanging by a thread by his side, Thurston displayed the character that sets him apart from all others. When QLD needed him most, he stood tallest, ignoring the pain and produced the control and game management that NSW lacked to get his men across the line. Bung shoulder and all he channelled James Brown at the Apollo and dragged his wounded body through the pain and produced a great try saver on Tyson Frizell, took the line on searching for chinks in the Blue armour and when they did crack he iced the match winning conversion with all the coolness of a King. He is a future immortal and all of QLD will have their eleven fingers crossed hoping he is fit to play Origin III. It will be Thurston’s final performance on the Origin stage he’s ruled for years, I’ll punt on the great man being there.
2.Jackson 5 out of 5
Josh Jackson was a worthy winner of the man of the match honours. He has been NSW best over the two matches and gave absolutely everything last night to get the Blues home. Gulgong strong, Jackson’s defensive work is uncompromising and unbelievably tough he knocks down all in his path. With the ball he bent the maroons back repeatedly poking his nose through the line. Jackson does all the dirty work, all the little one percenters that may not grab headlines but coaches and team mates love. It was by far Jackson’s finest performance in a Blues jersey. Players in a losing side rarely receive the accolades and Jackson deserves all the plaudits that came his way. He’ll be shattered but has to quickly regroup as he has a massive mountain to help his fellow Blues climb in three weeks. Jackson is as resilient as they come. He’ll relish the cauldron of Suncorp Stadium and rise to the challenge.
3.Blues Blow It
After half an hour I thought we were watching a replay of Origin I, the Blues winning the forward exchanges, ruling the ruck, tearing the Maroons up the middle of the field, Aaron Woods was dominating. NSW were moving the ball around the park beautifully. Magnificent tries scored searing through the centre, the Maroons struggling to handle the Blues speed. It was a fast match, just what NSW had ordered, and the game plan that NSW had devised copying the blueprint of Origin I was working a treat. The second half as the Maroons surged the Blues strayed with fatal consequences and began shifting the ball wide ignoring the middle third they’d owned, composure went out the window and panic set in. Ridiculous passes were thrown, the kicking game faltered. Questions about game management will be asked of the halves especially. It is Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney’s job to run the show, the show stopped and went from a toe-tapping musical to a horror flick as the Blues faltered under pressure. The image of a distraught Boyd Cordner sitting in the dressing room post-match shaking his head in disbelief spoke a thousand words. The Blues were numb and must mentally regroup fast. They’re a massive chance of attaining the prize but realise they had it within their grasp last night and it slipped out of their sweaty palm
4. Legends Lift
You could call QLDs comeback miraculous but miracles don’t occur with this regularity. Déjà vu might be a better way to describe the manner of the Maroons win, inevitable is another. The last twenty minutes as the Blues tired, the Maroon legends stepped up and took control. With immaculate timing the Big 4 pounced. Cooper Cronk and Thurston took control of the sets and the match, Cronk running more slicing through at one point. Cameron Smith’s influence on the game grew and in the final quarter he took advantage of the lung-busted Blues and began flirting out of dummy half searching for holes, weary defenders. Billy Slater’s pace threatened and he returned kicks deeper and deeper into NSW territory. The battle was fierce but the banana benders were winning the skirmishes finishing the stronger, and in the end won finally piercing the Blue shield with the always excellent Dane Gagai’s second try in the dying minutes. The majestic Thurston converting with a pressure kick that you knew he wasn’t going to miss.
5. Hayne Brain Drain
Jarryd Hayne had a night that is probably best described as a mixed bag. He started on fire, scoring a great try and ran with venom, throwing himself into the Maroons defence like a battering ram at a castle gate. Hayne then blew the chance that probably would have put the Blues that bridge too far away bombing a certain try late in the first half, when he chose not to pass to an unmarked Brett Morris and went for glory. The chance went begging and the Blues would not score again. Hayne’s game mirrored the Blues in the second stanza as he was guilty of pushing silly passes, knocking on, Hayne and the Blues playing as if they were behind on the scoreboard playing catch up. It was a golden opportunity to wrap up the series lost in a Maroon inspired frenzy. Both the match winning tries scored by Dane Gagai coming down his side of the field though you cannot solely blame Hayne for those but the defence on that edge needs to be rectified. Hayne is a champion and will be better in Origin III.
The Last Word
State of Origin is rugby league’s golden goose and long may it lay gold like last night’s match. The theatre and atmosphere it continues to produce is a credit to the players who put on remarkable performances game after game. I stand and applaud each and every one of them and cannot wait for Origin III.
If you thought the game and atmosphere was brilliant at ANZ, imagine the cacophony of 52,000 Queenslanders at the cauldron in an epic decider featuring Jonathan Thurston’s last match in the revered Maroon jersey and potentially the final fling for the other living legends Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater and Cameron Smith.
The Blues will be seeking to make their own Origin moments and create history, spoil the party, win the series and end the reign of Maroon dominance and begin the Blue Dynasty. It will blow TV ratings sky high, send social media into meltdown and explode the internet, all league lovers left in a lather in anticipation.
Bring it on!