State of Origin, game II
Teammates congratulate Brett Stewart of the Blues after he scored the first try. Photo: Mark Kolbe
Origin is alive. A knife-edge win by the Blues on home turf has sent the series back to Suncorp Stadium locked at one-all. Cameron Smith says they were outplayed by the Blues and he's spot on. NSW defended superbly when it counted and two tries to Brett Stewart did the damage on the scoreboard.
WALKING THE WALK Ricky Stuart did all the talking and his side walked the walk. It was an enthralling affair in tough conditions but the Blues held on with some gutsty and brutal defence when they needed it most. Qld found themselves down 16-6 but got it back to 16-12 and had enough chances to make it seven in a row. They simply weren't up to the challenge provided by a disciplined and motivated wall of blue.
EVERYTHING TO LOSE The game was played with both sides knowing the high stakes. It was enthralling and intense on the slippery surface, full of big hits and calculated kicking. There really is very little between these teams now and it's up for grabs in Brisbane. Game on in every sense.
HANDS LIKE FEET Akuila Uate did his best to help the Maroons with some more poor play under the high ball. He dropped one in the first half and couldn't handle one in the second. Both were followed by tries to Qld. He's a superb ball runner but must have some more confidence with kicks. If he found it hard here, wait until there's 55,000 Queenslanders screaming at him as it sails down from the skies.
ROBBIE FARAH He made 63 tackles. Huge.
CLUNKY ATTACK Queensland never looked like clicking. They made 12 mistakes to three from the Blues and dropped it in tackles, in fielding kicks and threw passes to nobody. They were well off their game thanks to the NSW rush defence and must show more composure at home. Justin Hodges dropping a pass that wasn't even meant for him with a minute to go summed up their night.
PARKER CUT, CRONK BINNED The game changed in the opening minutes of the second half. Corey Parker sustained an awful gash on his shin and never returned. Then Cooper Cronk was sent to the bin for obstructing Carney on the way to a potential try. There wasn't grounds for a penalty try but the sin-binning was costly. NSW scored twice in his absence and never recovered.
CLUTCH PLAY Michael Jennings knocked the ball free from the hands of Brent Tate just as he was about to score the potential match-winning try. Play of the game.
FULLTIME NSW 16 Qld 12.
79th min Hodges knocks on! That's game over and we are going to game three folks. The Maroons attack has been out of sync all night and another mix up there was costly indeed. NSW 16 Qld 12 with seconds left.
79th min Qld scrum win, 55m out as the NSW chant erupts around this ground.
78th min MASSIVE defence from NSW. Qld go nowhere but finally make a move with Boyd. He kicks it into Uate who knocks it on - surely - then runs away to put it down. Nobody is convinced and he's played at that, no doubt. That will be no try and the Maroons will get one final fling. NSW 16 Qld 12.
77th min Uate - heart in mouth stuff there. Ball was rolling along the ground at pace but he manages to scoop it up and make a very strong charge. Watmough on few the last few minutes here and the Blues at the right end of the park. They lead 16-12 and Qld are going to need something incredible to get past them. Just two minutes to play.
76th min Brilliant take from Slater under pressure but Qld have 80m to go.
75th min Taylor drops it - crowd rejoices. Blues huddle. They can sense that might be the defining moment. You wonder if Qld are going to get a chance as good as that again. NSW 16 Qld 12.
74th min Big defensive set from Qld and the Blues don't get far. Slater carts it back and they pile into him. Now a penalty to Qld, Lewis the offender for holding on in that tackle. On a plate for the Maroons now if they're good enough. NSW 16 Qld 12. Down to the wire we go.
71st min Tate! Caught the ball off the cross-kick and was about to plant it when Jennings knocked it out of his hands. That should have been another drop-out but NSW get the ball. Crucial decision there and it goes to the Blues. Great touch from Jennings - flat-out saved a try then. Wow wow and wow. What a game. NSW 16 Qld 12.
69th min The Maroons showing a lot of patience in attack now. They put it in the in-goal and get another set. Slow and steady might win them the race yet. Blues must hold firm.
68th min Qld hold on and surge back. They go 100m with that set and kick and force a restart as Stewart flies back to knock that ball dead. That was close. Qld surging at the moment after being under the pump. Every set of six from this point absolutely vital. NSW 16 Qld 12.
65th min Pearce gets a good kick away under big pressure from Matt Scott. Slater takes it and flies back as Dave Taylor comes back on for Qld. His sort of game now? Maybe. Crowd is 83,110 and they love this - NSW force the mistake from Myles. Great chance for them. It's NSW 16 Qld 6.
63rd min Curveball from Thurston splits the sticks. Huge conversion from his good side. NSW lead 16-12 and after dominating for most of the half, the Blues lead by just four. They have an extra man available but do they have the mental fortitude to close it out? Super finish on the way.
62nd min I think it's a TRY for Qld. Clock stops and it's gone upstairs. Thurston's kick to Uate was a good one and he was no match for Boyd, who bats it back to Inglis to circle around and score in the corner. Put down is good and that's the green light! Inglis gets another one at Origin level and it's a biggie. NSW 16 Qld 10 with a kick from the sideline to come.
61st min Myles went so close there and if that was a Taylor in that gap he might have got there. Another set though as the Qlders start to pile on the pressure. Huge test for the Blues now. They lead 16-6 and this is the time for Qld to strike back you would think.
60th min Smith's grubber is enough to get them another set but not much going on. NSW defence up to every challenge tonight.
58th min Penalty to Qld. They are going to get the chance to set up for a crucial set now. They're on the attack five metres out. NSW 16 Qld 6.
56th min That poor pass from Slater is going to make the error count 8-2 to Qld. Not a stat you really want to win. Must score next to keep their hopes alive or we are going to a decider.
54th min Qld pin the Blues down and get a repeat set. That's a massive dropout though. It sails 60m and spoils the party for the Maroons. Great stuff from the Blues, who can'd do anything wrong at the moment. The Slater pass goes to ground and the wheels, what's left of them, fall off for Qld.
52nd min Cronk's back. Are Qld gone though? Offered very little in attack in the face of swarming NSW defence. Need a plan B in a hurry of this one's curtains. NSW 16 Qld 6.
50th min It's almost Cronk time. They crossed twice in his absence. Just a bit of making up to do. NSW 16 Qld 6. Whoops.
48th min It's a TRY to the Blues! They lead 16-6 and are blitzing them. But if the Inglis decision was strange, that one is strange as well. Hayne lost it forward and kicked it before it hit the ground I suspect. Will need another look. Readers? Thoughts? Anyway, it's 16-6 to the Blues. Carney misses the kick.
46th min Alllll NSW. Easy metres. Qld survive this one and can't wait for Cronk to arrive. Costly sin-binning. Qld will surely be a man down for the rest of the match with that injury to Parker. And Morris is over again but surely Hayne knocked that on before? Am I seeing things? We've gone upstairs. NSW killing them!
44th min TRY to the Blues! They go 70m! Carney makes the break down his end and positions his man perfectly to score under the posts! Genius move to take that penalty a minute ago. Stewart gets number two for tonight and it's 12-6 to the Blues. They've surged to life NSW and Qld still a man down for another eight minutes.
43rd min Carney is going to take the shot here. With Qld a man down. And a fresh set right on their line. This could be a bit of madness but that's why I write and don't coach. He gets it so let's go to NSW 6 Qld 6. Parker still getting treatment for a very, very nasty cut.
42nd min All happening! Blues claiming a try but their man was held back I think. Farah down after being SLAMMED in the ribs by Nate Myles as well. Pearce grubber, Carney chases and locks horns with Cronk. NO TRY but it is surely a penalty to the Blues and Cronk is going to the SIN BIN! Professional foul! Parker down, Cronk sent, the Blues on the attack! It's burst into life the Origin!
41st min We're back on and drama already. Parker down with what looks like a bad injury. He's got a huge gash on his shin. Owww. Play stopped already and he's being carried off. Heroic comeback opportunity? Not convinced. Nate Myles back in after that, say, 45 second rest. NSW to feed a scrum 40m out.
HALFTIME Qld 6 NSW 4
Jon chimes in with a special comment about Uate: "3 tries Uate now owes his teammates. Someone tell him to imagine the ball is a big chicken schnitzel."
And on twitter, Pierre in San Fran tells me he's be "dirty if my stinger didn't try to take the ball on the full in park footy". Michael Jennings might be the man to ask about that.
Uate dominating discussion. Seriously though, he looked at that ball like it was covered in anthrax.
40th min Thurston kicks it from dead in front to make it 6-4 but that was woeful from Uate. Had yonks of time but no intention at all to try and take that bomb on the full. Then he managed to lose it on the bounce under pressure from Boyd. How are Qld winning?
39th min Uate howler! Hannant goes in under the posts and surely this is a try! Disaster for the Bues I think. He let the Cronk bomb bounce, then managed to bungle it on the second take. Harrison is on the spot, Hannant steams through and that's going to by a... TRY to Qld. it's NSW 4 Qld 4 with a kick to come.
37th min Qld under immense pressure! But they hold on. Two huge defensive sets on their line and Cam Smith ends up with the ball. They are on the wrong end at the moment the Maroons and need a massive set to get this moving along. And that's exactly what they get. Massive kick from Cronk and the play goes right down the other end. NSW 4 Qld 0.
36th min Touch judge in. Hodges takes out Carney without the ball. Silly, silly stuff and the set restarts basically.
35th min Mistake from Slater. Bobbles the Carney kick and ends up going into touch right on his line. Bad mistake from the fullback and NSW really in the box seat now to pinch another one before the break. It's 4-0 to the Blues.
33rd min Mal is going to break something soon. Or blame the media. Another Qld error, this time from Hodges as he tries a poorly conceived offload in the tackle. All the pressure gone again and the Blues will feel like they've got the Maroons a little bit rattled I'd think. Containing them with ease at this stage.
31st min Parker and Watmough on for their respective sides and good first touches to both of them. Lots of dummy-half running from both sides in this weather and it's proving effective. NSW getting the better of the kick-chase and territorial game at the moment. Qld need a bit of a spark providing they can hang onto the ball for long enough. NSW 4 Qld 0.
28th min Crowd getting behind their side now after that rush of blood thanks to Stewart's third try in Origin footy. Nice little angle running and inside balls from the Blues. They're trying to get the big Qld forwards to shift direction and it's working as Morris cracks them again down the same side! Bomb goes up but Tate takes it to get the 20m tap. NSW 4 Qld 0.
27th min Carney's kick is... no good. Hooks it and it lands harmlessly. Good stuff from the Blues though. Caught Qld short on that right side and they take a 4-0 lead.
25th min TRY for the Blues. Did enough to get some white paint on the end of that ball. Too many mistakes from Queensland and this time, NSW made them pay. Blues lead it 4-0 with a kick to come.
25th min We're going upstairs! Brett Stewart is over on the right but has he got it down?
24th min Slater limping a little for Qld and now they botch it again. Hannant drops it cold and this must be time to hit the go button for NSW. They feed the scrum midfield, 30m out. No score - yet.
21st min Neither side doing a great deal right in attack. Tough conditions I guess. But some nerves, no doubt. Smith, of all people, passes to nobody and the Qld attack unravels 15m out from the Blues line. NSW get a good kick away through Pearce but Boyd gets to it on the full. Boy this is tight. Luke Lewis and Ben Hannant get a run. Scott off for the Qlders, Tamou for the Blues.
19th min Bird drops it second tackle. Not much chop there. And now a penalty to Qld and bit of push and shove to boot. Meninga brings Shillington into the park in place of Civoniceva, who has looked pretty good in the opening exchanges. No score in game two.
17th min Quality set from the Maroons. Fast ruck play and good kick by Thurston to finish it off. NSW doing more of the grunt work at the moment. Slater almost mucks up the gather off the Farah kick but manages to keep it in play! Miracle stuff. Crazy. But miraculous. Now the crowd getting involved as Glenn Stewart puts a bit hit on Myles! Huge defensive set from the Blues and they win the turnover! No score yet as Grant comes off, replaced by Creagh.
15th min Little chip from Thurston well taken by the Blues and they get the penalty with Cronk offside in that chase. Great defence and helluva start to this game. Playing like teams who know what's at stake. It's 0-0.
13th min Hold on! Have the Maroons scored or butchered one? Gone upstairs. Kick chase was good and Hayne drops it in the in-goal. The ball seemed to be begging for Taylor but he tried to pick it up instead of just putting a big paw on it. Insanity! to be honest, I think Stewart grounded it in any case. In fact, he did. So Taylor gets a let off. No try. NSW drop out though as Smith ruled to have knocked it from Stewart's hand. Score remains 0-0.
11th min Bird drops it on tackle one but Smith is pinged for helping it on its way. He doesn't complain too much about that one. The look of a guilty man. Great reliever for the Blues and they start from the halfway line. Enthralling battle so far. Both sides fairly conservative with their attack in the slippery conditions.
10th min Ooooooh Tate dances with the sideline. A waltz if I'm not mistake. Manages to stay in and trucks it up the park. Not a bad return set from a bad start for Qld. Bird hammers Cronk after the kick and Qld get six again. Ouch. It's 0-0.
8th min Tim Grant gets tangled up with Hodges and gives away the penalty. Hodges is an expert on that and got the rookie there. Grant gives him a shove for good luck. Why not? Qld advance down the field to start their set but Matt Scott makes a very, very bad error. Dropped it at the play-the-ball on tackle one. Fail. It's 0-0.
6th min Brett Stewart goes very close for the Blues. A big run from the impressive Tamou set it up but he an't get there. Pearce ends the set with a poor kick that rolls dead. He needs to do much better than that tonight. It's 0-0.
5th min Only early but Qld much closer to the pace tonight, although Thurston just put that one down in attack. The Blues work it back out and there's no clear advantage to either side at the moment. But there's a penalty to NSW and they'll get the first real opportunity to mount a raid on the line tonight.
3rd min Early break from Cronk! Goes through and chips ahead. The Blues clean up and start right on their line. That's an early scare and a good touch for the Qld number seven. No score as yet.
1st min Blues already attacking the edges in a decent first set. Kick goes right to Slater and he even catches it. Wins all around.
8.15pm Qld to kick off. It's go time fans. Thanks for joining me. We are on!
8.13pm Anthems now and Bevan, I'm in the media box at the ground. Bringing it live and large. Let's do this.
8.12pm Maroons are on the park and a great response, including large plumes of fire, for the Blues. Just the anthem and the smash-a-thon is going to start. I'm loving the idea of an early stoush. In fact, I reckon it's a done deal.
8.10pm Just a bit of stirring music now but here come the Queenslanders. Last shot of them in the sheds as they begin to move out towards the field.
8.04pm Now for the Blues. Bit of Carney love. Gallen! They love him! Huge reception for the lock forward and skipper. A few Watmough fans as well. Yeah, he's ok. We're not far away now folks. Time to get your game face on.
8.02pm Qld player intros. I'll let you know who gets the biggest boo. Inglis solid, Hodges OK. It would have been Thaiday if he was playing. Actually, not much booing at all. What's happening?
8pm A police helicopter just landed in the middle of the park. Some dog got out but more importantly, this chopper is amazing. It looks like Blue Thunder, minus the gatling gun. And the capability to go silent. And the good theme song. Actually, it looks a bit like a transformer. Anyway, it's a good bit of gear. Rugby league LOVES helipcopters.
7.49pm But me old mate Stroevey from Bathurst has decided to brush the game in favour of True Blood. Stroevs! Are you at least going to keep track on the blog? Anna Pacquin isn't a bad second choice. You might be onto something.
7.48pm How about this reference from Bill in FNQ:
I knew you as a young bloke at Imbil Phil. I wouldn't call you smug or ungracious at all.
Too kind Bill. Thanks for sending that comment through at the requested time. You were always punctual.
7.46pm They've stuffed Seal up the far end of the ground behind the sticks. They don't want the rolling stage to muck up the ground. Poor bloke. We love you mate. Great effort.
7.45pm Seal! Seal! OMG! He's busting out 'Crazy' to get us started. Gold nailpolish, for the one person who requested that information.
7.43pm Good start for Qld in the prelim games. The Maroons won the Under 18s game and the police game, which was moved to Kogarah due to the showers that are floating about here. After that, they gave themselves an escort to the ground for the main game.
7.42pm Seal on deck tonight for the pre-game show. I hope we see the real Seal. I can only take him so far in this business.
7.38pm Vince Sorrenti just finished warming up the crowd here. Not a bad effort. My pick of the gags: "Queensland has won six years in a row. You know the only thing most Queenslanders do for six years in a row? Kindergarten."
That's a lie. It only took me five years.
Preamble Good evening fans from a smug, ungracious Queenslander doing my best to duck the Tooheys cans at the always delightful Homebush. Thanks for your company tonight and if you're like me, you won't be able to wait for this one to start. The lead-up has been furious and after the way game one ended, the anticipation was always going to be potentially fatal.
What can I say that hasn't been said? NSW thought they were the better team in game one and Ricky Stuart has made himself exceptionally clear on that front. But the problem with excuses is you eventually run out. The Blues have everything in their favour tonight at their home ground and it really is now or never for some of their players and of course, their coach. They think they can win and send it to a decider in Brisbane.
Queensland got home 18-10 in Melbourne but readily concede they were going backwards for much of the contest. The lingering question surrounding them is did they play below their best level, or have they jumped the shark at series win number six?
The Blues look better for mine with Anthony Watmough on the bench in place of the puzzling Jamie Buhrer. Queensland lose Sam Thaiday to injury, with Dave Taylor set to start, and Corey Parker comes in on the bench. Thaiday is a loss but Parker is an excellent player who gives them quicker and sharper defence around the middle.
Who wins? I really have no idea. You can make very good cases for both sides - and that's why tonight's game is so appealing.