NSW v Queensland
Rabbitohs skipper Greg Inglis will represent Queensland for the 25th time when he runs out against the Blues tomorrow night (Wednesday) at ANZ Stadium for Origin I.
For the first time since 2006, New South Wales enter an Origin Series as the incumbent champions, breaking up a Queensland reign of eight consecutive wins. But the Blues of 2015 look a different outfit to the one that won Games I and II in 2015.
But if the adage “you’re only as good as your last game” is true, then it’s Queensland who come into the Series with all the ascendency having demolished New South Wales 32-8 in the dead-rubber Game III of 2014.
While there are plenty of familiar faces in the NSW side, the Blues of 2015 are a different outfit to the one that won Games I and II in 2015.
The absence of Jarryd Hayne at fullback and Josh Reynolds at five-eighth are options that NSW Coach Laurie Daley would rather he didn’t have to contend with. In their place however are the on-fire Josh Dugan at fullback, and experienced Origin campaigner Mitchell Pearce, who will partner Trent Hodkinson in the halves.
On the opposite side of half-way, Mal Meninga has stuck strong to the Queensland formula by naming yet another settled line-up that includes the ever-present – and seemingly ageless – Melbourne Storm spine of Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith.
Throw in the likes of Greg Inglis, Johnathan Thurston and Sam Thaiday into that already potent mix, and the Maroons pose endless threats to defending champions.
If it’s not his size, it’s his speed. If it’s not his speed, then it’s his strength. Throw in the fact that he’s the greatest Origin try-scorer in history (15 tries) and there’s little doubt that whether selected to play at fullback or centre, Rabbitohs skipper Greg Inglis has and will play a vital role for Queensland.
Just one year after making his first grade debut in 2005, Inglis made his Origin debut, before going on to become a member of a formidable dynasty of Queensland teams that would ultimately take out eight series’ in a row.
Expect Inglis to partner well in the centres with veteran, Justin Hodges, while also having the benefit of playing outside the experience and creativity of Cronk and Thurston.
Last Time They Met
The Maroons avoided a New South Wales clean-sweep by emphatically defeating the Blues 32-8 in Game III of the 2014 State of Origin Series after two nail-biting games.
With the Blues already having wrapped up the Series in Game II, it was all up to the Maroons to play for pride in the final Origin instalment of the year. Rabbitohs Greg Inglis and Ben Te’o were dangerous throughout the night in both attack and defence, with Inglis coming within millimetres of scoring on a number of occasions.
Inglis laid on the first opportunity for the Maroons when he attacked the short side in the opening five minutes of the match. But the Rabbitoh was unable to hold on and plant the ball over the line.
Inglis was at it again just minutes later, when the big centre danced through the Blues defensive line before passing on to Thurston who was held up over the try-line. Aiden Guerra was also denied one play later.
Rabbitohs players were in the thick of the action, but not always for the right reason. A high and late shot on a Blues kicker from Ben Te’o landed the Rabbitohs back-rower on report, with Trent Hodkinson taking the shot at goal to put the Blues two points ahead.
With nine minutes in the half remaining, Inglis was at it again when he steamed onto a ball and was held up in-goal yet again.
Video: Origin III 2014
But it turned out that the injection of Daly Cherry-Evans was just what the Maroons needed. The Manly playmaker sliced through the Blues defence before drawing in Jarryd Hayne and grubbering through for Cameron Smith to score the opening try of the match. Thurston converted from close range to give the home-side a 6-2 lead going into the sheds.
On the resumption, a well-orchestrated back-line movement resulted in Billy Slater breaking through the Blues line to score the home team’s second try of the night. Thurston added the extras to make it 12-2. Thurston then added a penalty goal to extend their lead to 14-2 half way through the second half.
New South Wales wouldn’t give up though, putting together a set-piece that saw Josh Dugan cross the stripe despite some conjecture from the video referee regarding an obstruction. Hodkinson added the extras to narrow the gap to 12-8.
With the game in the balance, the Maroons hit back through Darius Boyd, who crossed out wide for a much-needed try to extend the lead. Thurston added the extras to make the difference 10 points. But it wouldn’t end there, with Aiden Guerra crossing just one set later. Thurston made no mistake with the conversion to make it 26-8.
Queensland began to dominate when Cooper Cronk wrapped up the match with a four-pointer of his own – the Test and Maroon half racing 30 metres to plant the ball down before Thurston added an extra two to round out the match at 32-8 in favour of the home-side.