QLD v NSW
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Wednesday, July 8, 8.15pm
The stage is set for one of the most awaited State of Origin deciders in recent memory as New South Wales looks to make it two in a row against Queensland when they venture up to Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane tonight.
Greg Inglis will start at fullback for the Maroons following the injury of Billy Slater, while Alex Johnston was called into Laurie Daley’s Blues side as a shadow player, but while unlikely to get any game time, Johnston will no doubt benefit from the experience of being in camp in the same way Dylan Walker did in Game II.
Story: Inside Maroons Camp
Much has been made of Inglis’ positional change after playing the majority of his Origin career, as well as the first two games in the centres. But with plenty of experience at the back at club level, and with the likes of Darius Boyd playing on the wing, Queensland’s kick-return team will have lost little in terms of getting their team on the front foot early in their sets.
Queensland may not be the only team missing a star tonight though, with New South Wales sweating on the availability of hooker Robbie Farah, who has been a vital cog in the Blues’ Origin defence. Should Farah not take the field, Cronulla rake Michael Ennis will no doubt start the match, and with his uniquely Origin approach to his game, will not be out of place.
Greg Inglis: Despite being on the wrong end of the score-board in Game II, Inglis was in fine form, picking up a four-pointer, narrowly missing out on a second, while making 130 metres with the ball in hand and making five tackle busts. Inglis gets his shot at fullback as part of what could be a rotation system at the back with Darius Boyd.
Alex Johnston: In the same vein as Dylan Walker’s selection in Origin II, Alex Johnston was added into Laurie Daley’s New South Wales side as a shadow player. While only a late re-shuffle through strategy or injury would see Johnston actually get on the field, the Souths Junior is a worthy replacement. Johnston is no stranger to the representative scene, having already represented the Indigenous All Stars this year in addition to earning himself a Test cap for the Kangaroos as well as being part of Australia’s 2014 Four Nations squad.
Last Time They Met
Greg Inglis went to the top of State of Origin’s all-time try-scorer list after grabbing a four-pointer in Queensland’s 26-18 loss to New Souths Wales in front of a record Origin crowd of 91,513 at the MCG in Game II to set up a thrilling decider.
A penalty to the Blues on the very first set put New South Wales in prime position early in the match, and on the back of two repeat sets on the Queensland line, it was Michael Jennings who streaked through to open the scoring out wide. Hodkinson converted to make it 6-0 after five minutes.
The Maroons would respond just five minutes later when Matt Scott ran straight between the goal-posts for what would prove a simple try to the front-rower. Thurston equalised with the conversion from right in front.
Mid-week suggestions that the Blues would not tolerate alleged ‘grubby’ Queensland tactics came to the fore in the early stages of the match, with James Tamou putting the niggle on the Maroons fullback in a minor fracas. The incident would earn Queensland a penalty, but it would be the Blues who would score next.
With the Blues attacking the Queensland line with intent, Mitchell Pearce kicked across field to a flying Josh Morris, who overcame a number of defenders to plant the ball down. Hodkinson converted to give the Blues a 12-6 lead.
The lead would be narrowed though as Queensland mounted a promising attack from a seemingly impossible position. It would be Inglis who would be the beneficiary – the Rabbitohs skipper taking advantage of a three on two situation down the short-side before finishing off the movement with a try to becoming Queensland’s leading try-scorer with 16 four-pointers. Thurston’s conversion attempt was waved away, leaving the score at 12-10.
A penalty against the Maroons for being inside the 10 metres line right on their own line gifted Hodkinson a penalty goal from right in front with 90 seconds in the half remaining. But the sides would ultimately go to the break with the Blues leading 14-10.
It took just five minutes after the break for the Maroons to get back on the board – Matt Gillett hitting the ball at speed close to the line before crashing over for his first Origin try to equalise next to the sticks. Thurston converted to take the lead to the tune of 16-14.
Another penalty to the Maroons within kicking distance saw Thurston take full advantage from 18 metres out to take the Queensland lead to 18-14.
But Aaron Woods would have none of it, with the Tigers front rower beating four Maroon defenders to score a brilliant front-rowers try from short-range. Hodkinson made no mistake to re-take the lead for the Blues by 20-18.
Inglis nearly grabbed a sensational second try when the Rabbitoh streaked some 80 metres untouched to score following a one on one strip on the Blues. But the video referee disallowed the try on the grounds of a knock on in the strip.
The Blues went on the attack again with 10 minutes in the match remaining with a short-ball to Josh Dugan opening up a gaping hole in the Maroon defence to score amid euphoric scenes from the New South Welshmen. Hodkinson converted to make it 26-18.