Marooned: NSW feeling the blues. Again
Queensland 18 NSW 10
Queenslander ... the Maroons celebrate a try during last night's Origin match. Photo: Getty Images
REVENGE is a dish best served cold but, by the time the NSW State of Origin team get to ladle it out, its likely to be draped in hoar frost.
The Blues took opening match of the three-game series down to the wire, losing 18-10 but now face the seemingly impossible task of beating Queensland before a raucous Brisbane crowd to stop their opponents closing out a seventh straight series victory.
If the indignity of losing three years in a row - or four or five - hadn't provided sufficient motivational spur to produce a great victory it was probably wishful thinking to imagine six might be the magic number.
NSW feels the Blues. Again
Battered but victorious ... The Maroons take game one of the State of Origin series. Photo: Getty Images
But, as there were last year when the Blues won game two, there were at least signs of life. For at least the first 20 minutes, it looked like the Blues might have found a way back. Having picked a team built for speed not comfort, they began the match with great intent and a sound plan, enough of both to see winger Akuila Uate pounce on a dropped ball to claim the early lead.
Play spun spectacularly from one end to another. One minute Farah was nearly over under the posts; the next Queensland winger Brent Tate pinned his ears back and charged down the sideline. And back came NSW again.
NSW had dared to believe, dared to choose a team light on experience and light on its feet; a squad ready to run, ready to shuffle the ball beyond the predictable hit-up, ready to use footwork and late changes of direction to disorient their bigger, stronger Maroon opponents.
But to beat a Queensland team as good as this NSW would need not just a good plan and great execution but none of the self-inflicted wounds that can cause so much harm at this level. It wasn't to be.
Mitchell Pearce was tricked into passing the ball to Cameron Smith, Michael Jennings ran from the wilds to land a haymaker and was binned for 10 minutes and pair of errors by Todd Carney gifted the ball back to Queensland.
And how they made the Blues pay. Winger Darius Boyd crossed twice and, from the sideline, Thurston twice piloted the ball between the posts to secure a 12-4 half-time lead.
But Jennings, who had started the rot for NSW in the first half, returned with redemption on his mind and scored in the first minutes of the second half. A conversion brought NSW back to within two points.
Cameron Smith, Jonathan Thurston and Billy Slater, who was far from his best, show no signs of tiring in their appetite for the annual humiliation of their southern protagonists. What might stop them?
Certainly not age. Smith, who inherited the captaincy from Darren Lockyer, is still only 28 as are Slater and new halfback Cooper Cronk while Thurston is 29. Greg Inglis is a pup at only 25. Barring serious injury they could easily make 10 straight series wins before NSW conjures a team capable defying their sorcery.
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