Queensland v New South Wales
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
It all may be done and dusted so far as the Series goes, but just ask any of the 34 players set to take the field tonight at Suncorp Stadium, and the interstate stoush is far from over – if anything, Queensland’s revenge could just be about to begin.
With Chris McQueen ruled out of the match owing to an ankle injury, Greg Inglis and Ben Te’o will be the two players representing the Rabbitohs on the interstate stage tonight.
New South Wales have an opportunity to record their first Origin clean-sweep since 2000 tonight – an unheard of feat for Blues supporters in recent years, let alone a series win. But with Laurie Daley’s 2014 Blues having ended a Queensland dynasty that lasted eight successive and often painful years, the men in blue won’t easily let their foot up off the accelerator – not now that they’ve have a sniff.
After missing Game II through injury, the Blues will be bolstered by the return of Game I hero Josh Morris in the centres to partner Josh Dugan. Surrounding these two strike weapons on the New South Wales fringes is the finishing talent of Daniel Tupou and James McManus on the wings. But when it comes to defining the 2014 Blues, it’s fullback Jarryd Hayne that springs immediately to mind.
Hayne has played an instrumental role in the Blues’ charge through the 2014 Series – pulling off freakish and pivotal tries and moments that have inspired his New South Wales teammates to a rare Series victory. Add the heroics of Paul Gallen up-front, and Trent Hodkinson in the middle, and the Blues have plenty of motivation to bring them a clean sweep. The question is, after losing both opening games this year, does Queensland have enough motivation of their own to turn it all around?
With ominous injury clouds swirling over Maroons camp before Origin II, the score-line of 6-4 in many ways was a triumph of resilience for the Queenslanders. Daly Cherry-Evans filled in for the then-injured Cooper Cronk at halfback. But Cronk is back tonight and raring to go. Add in his Storm and Test teammates in Cameron Smith and Billy Slater, as well as the talents of the Rabbitohs’ own Greg Inglis and the Maroons are back to near full-strength.
Last Time They Met
Queensland’s State of Origin dynasty came to an end at at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday 18th June 2014, after the New South Wales Blues held on to defeat the Maroons by two points in a 6-4 victory.
A fiery start to the game that saw both teams exchange pleasantries in a string of pushes and shoves ended with Johnathan Thurston slotting a penalty goal from 30 metres out in the 14th minute, giving the Maroons an early 2-0 lead.
Neither of the two sides could gain an advantage as they traded opportunities in the first half hour of the match. But another penalty within kicking distance 10 minutes out from half-time, allowed Thurston to shoot another penalty goal to make it 4-0 to take the sides to the break – Thurston becoming the all-time greatest Origin point-scorer in the process with 162.
On the resumption, the stalemate continued. A Blues mistake was regathered by Greg Inglis, leading to a perfect attacking opportunity for the men in Maroon. The Queenslanders sent wave after wave of attack at the Blues line, with Sam Thaiday eventually seemingly scoring adjacent to the sticks. But a look at the video revealed that Thaiday had lost control of the ball before grounding it.
The Maroons were dealt a setback when Brent Tate twisted his leg awkwardly in a tackle, prompting Chris McQueen to push back out to the wing after having played much of the game in the back-row.
With 13 minutes left, New South Wales threw everything they had at the Maroons, with Robbie Farah coming within inches of scoring before winning a repeat-set with an enthusiastic kick-chase on Justin Hodges.
The tackle paid dividends in the 70th minute, with the Blues having the tackle-count re-started, before Trent Hodkinson sliced through from close range to score one of the most important tries in New South Wales’ recent history. Hodkinson converted his own try to take the lead 6-4.
With the clock winding down and the teams deep in Blues territory, tempers flared with Josh Reynolds and Johnathan Thurston both placed on report for knocking foreheads together in an attempted head-but.
But the match was done and dusted – the Blues taking out their first series win since 2005 amid scenes of euphoria from New South Welshmen on the ground and in the stands.