Rugby League

Glenn Jackson
License article

Masterful Maroons leave Blues behind the eightball

''It's gr8 m8, 8 St8 of Origins in a row.''

Get set to endure another 12 months of texts and tweets like that after the Maroons extended their Origin domination to eight consecutive series wins.

Watched by an ANZ Stadium record crowd of 83,812, the Blues came so close to ending the streak but again fell agonisingly short as they did when a Cooper Cronk field goal decided last year's series.

In the end, discipline cost NSW as the Maroons' two tries to Johnathan Thurston and Justin Hodges - the best player on the field - came on the back of penalties.

A 13th-minute Thurston penalty goal ultimately proved the difference between the two teams in what proved to be another epic battle that was thankfully devoid of controversy after the brawling that had marred the two opening matches.

Early on, the signs had looked ominous for another comfortable Queensland win as the Blues gave away silly penalties and turned over possession.


Mitchell Pearce, who had declared that his Origin career was likely to be over if he couldn't steer NSW to a series win, set the tone when he dropped his first touch of the ball in the third minute.

Worse was to come when Greg Bird conceded a blatant penalty for holding down Sam Thaiday on halfway six minutes later and Thurston stepped his way over for the opening try.

Blues skipper Robbie Farah complained that he had been impeded from getting to Thurston by Nate Myles but the reality was poor NSW defence had allowed the Maroons five-eighth to score.

Another penalty, this time against Blues five-eighth James Maloney for shouldering Cooper Cronk after a kick, enabled Thurston to extend the lead to 8-0 in the 13th minute and the match appeared destined to go the way of Origin II when Queensland led 14-0 after 17 minutes.

As the NSW players headed back to halfway for another kick-off, the tackle counts of the respective teams were 57-to-38 - meaning the Maroons had enjoyed more than three sets of additional possession to the Blues.

But the match changed with the injection of forwards Anthony Watmough and Andrew Fifita from the interchange bench and the Blues finished the first half on top everywhere but the scoreboard.

Remarkably, the penalty count at the interval was 6-2 in favour of NSW and the errors were even at four apiece.

What those statistics don't show is how the Blues failed to take their opportunities as they threw wayward passes or dropped the ball to let Queensland off the hook.

After Farah had regained the ball from his own kick after a Billy Slater knock-on near the Maroons' line, the next pass went to no-one and NSW lost possession.

A Maloney kick put down by Greg Inglis also provided the Blues with no real advantage after Luke Lewis lost the ball on zero tackle.

James McManus finally put the Blues on the board in the 25th minute after back-to-back penalties against Queensland when he finished off a sweeping movement involving Pearce, fullback Josh Dugan and Josh Morris.

But McManus was denied a second try just two before half-time when his wing opposite Darius Boyd just managed to get downward pressure on a Farah grubber kick bouncing in the Maroons' in-goal.

There were more wasted opportunities for the Blues early in the second half, with Dugan being unable to hold a Fifita off-load as he sped into the clear and Michael Jennings twice dropping the ball.

Queensland deserve credit for their defence to hold NSW out through sustained periods before and after half-time, and Hodges was a key figure in snuffing out several try-scoring opportunities for the Blues.

The 31-year-old centre deservedly crossed for the match-winning try in the 64th minute after running onto a perfectly timed pass from Cronk.

Blues prop Trent Merrin scored in the 71st minute but Queensland held on to win.