Braveheart Blues outlast Maroons in Origin I
NSW have delivered one of the most stirring defensive efforts in the state's history to breathe even greater life into the 2014 Holden State of Origin series with a pulsating 12-8 win over Queensland at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night.
Everything that has made Origin so great over the past 99 encounters was brought to bear in Game No.100 with desperate defence, scintillating attack and brutal physical punishment dished out on both sides in front of a captivated crowd of 52,111.
It was high drama from the very start, with Queensland halfback Cooper Cronk forced to leave the field after just 10 minutes with a possible broken left arm, while Maroons skipper Cameron Smith was troubled by an injury to his right ankle for much of the second half.
Leading 10-4 at the break, the Blues extended their lead to 12-4 in the 43rd minute through a second penalty goal to halfback Trent Hodkinson but for almost the entire remainder of the second half held on for grim death as the Maroons launched wave after wave of attack on the Blues defence - yet it ceded just the once.
Enjoying a run of possession that at one point saw them have 10 of 14 sets midway through the second half, Queensland got back within reach in the 56th minute when Darius Boyd scored his second try of the night in almost a carbon copy of his first in the fifth minute.
The Blues had but a handful of opportunities down the other end of the field and survived a frantic final 45 seconds when the Maroons attempted to pull yet another famous victory from the jaws of defeat when they were awarded a penalty right on the goal-line.
Blues captain Paul Gallen was inspirational in the middle of the field, Jarryd Hayne a constant threat both at the back and when sliding into the backline, while Josh Reynolds will face a nervous wait before he learns whether he will be cited for a possible lifting tackle in the 28th minute.
Tries to Brett Morris and Hayne gave the Blues a six-point lead at half-time after the Maroons were thrown into disarray following the departure of Cronk early in the match.
NSW suffered their own scare when Brett Morris appeared to have injured his right shoulder in scoring his side's opening try and in the 28th minute Reynolds was placed on report for a possible lifting tackle on Queensland winger Brent Tate.
Queensland dominated the opening exchanges and took until just the fourth minute before back-rower Chris McQueen cut a swathe through the Blues defence before offloading to Greg Inglis, who took play down towards the Blues' 20-metre line.
Nate Myles was the unexpected kicker at the end of the set and although his kick skewed off the side of his boot Blues winger Daniel Tupou was bundled into touch when he recovered possession.
From the ensuing scrum the Maroons stacked the left side and came up trumps immediately, Darius Boyd putting 11 weeks of turmoil behind him to score his 13th Origin try – second on the all-time tally – and give his side a 4-0 advantage after just five minutes.
Billy Slater sent shockwaves through the Blues nerves when he broke free from a kick return in the ninth minute but soon after the Maroons meticulous preparation was given its greatest test when Cronk left the field and was replaced by Daly Cherry-Evans.
With Reynolds and Hayne causing the Maroons' left-side defence plenty of problems and on the back of a weight of possession they levelled the score in the 19th minute when Hayne created space for Josh Morris who positioned brother Brett perfectly on his inside to score in the corner.
Further expansive attack instigated by Hayne and Reynolds saw Beau Scott take play deep into Maroons territory in the 28th minute, the Queensland defence holding on for a fraction too long and Trent Hodkinson converting the penalty from 28 metres out right in front.
Enjoying all of the running and with 59 per cent of possession in the first half, the Blues extended their lead to six points in the 33rd minute when Hayne was tackled short of the line but rolled into the in-goal by the Maroons covering defence and planting it across for the Blues' second try of the night.
Queensland finally had a chance down in enemy territory three minutes from the break but a shift to the right saw Matt Gillett spill a flat Cherry-Evans pass 10 metres out from the line.
NSW 12 (Brett Morris, Jarryd Hayne tries; Trent Hodkinson 2 goals) def. Queensland 8 (Darius Boyd 2 tries) at Suncorp Stadium. Half-time: 10-4 NSW. Crowd: 52,111. Penalties: 7-4 Queensland.
Story first appeared on NRL.com