Queensland have sealed their tenth State of Origin series in 11 years, with a 26-16 win at Suncorp Stadium over the NSW Blues.
Despite a slow start to the game, the second half was nothing but entertainment, as the two sides piles on 28 points to thrill a full house in Brisbane.
In the ultimate rugby league cliche, it truly was a game of two halves, with NSW unable to capitalise on their dominance in the first half, while Queensland put points together when they had opportunities in the second.
Dane Gagai was the star for Queensland with three tries to his name, along with fullback Darius Boyd, interchange player Josh Papalii and tireless hooker Cameron Smith.
The Blues’ best were Robbie Farah, who started the game with great energy, and Aaron Woods, who continually made metres through the middle. Jack Bird and Tyson Frizell were excellent on debut Josh Jackson also had a solid game in the second row despite a late error.
But really, it was the story of the second half that made this game so entralling.
Queensland looked to break the game wide open with a try early in the first half to Dane Gagai. It was a terrible piece of defence from Michael Jennings, who rushed out of the line, but it was a terrific piece of play from Darius Boyd, who summed up what was in front of him, and threw it basketball-style to Gagai who crossed for his second.
The catch from Gagai was amazingly athletic, plucking the ball from the air and planting it down over the line untouched.
What came in the minutes following was NSW’s worst period of the game. A lack of trust in defence, and ill-discipline almost cost the Blues another try, but they got through unscathed thanks to a good defensive play from Robbie Farah.
Despite this, when they did find themselves with possession, it was two Blues’ newcomers, Adam Reynolds and Tyson Frizell, who combined to put them right back in the contest.
It was a terrific offload from Adam Reynolds, who took the line on and gave it to Frizell who put it down under the black dot.
Despite a hot start to the second 40 from Queensland, NSW were right back in it at this stage.
But it was the man of the night, Dane Gagai, who got his third try of the night after a consecutive set of six for the Maroons.
The pressure all told as NSW were unable to clean up the scraps from a clever kick from Thurston. Gagai couldn’t believe his luck as he found the ground yet again, putting Queensland ahead 20-10.
At this point, many were willing to write the Blues off, but James Maloney had other ideas. After a threatening passage of play for Queensland, the Blues five-eighth managed to pluck a pass from Gagai intended for teammate Justin O’Neill out of the air, and sprint 90 metres to bring the Blues to within four points.
Michael Jennings had an opportunity to put the Blues ahead with less than ten minutes to play, but fingertips meant he knocked it on before Tyson Frizell had the chance to ground a James Maloney kick.
Straight away, Queensland made them pay. A well-worked play on the left saw Darius Boyd put Corey Oates over in the corner, and that was all she wrote for the series.
This followed a rather less intense first half, which was dominated by the forward tussle and the referees’ whistles.
The first points of the match came on the back of some early pressure for Queensland, who mounted a strong attack with Johnathan Thurston jinking through the line and looking to offload to Greg Inglis, who was held early by Dylan Walker.
Thurston converted the penalty goal for Queensland to go up by two early.
The Blues levelled it up not long after, with a jinking run from Aaron Woods setting up a promising passage for NSW.
A penalty ensued, and they brought it to 2-2. Another penalty goal soon followed after a lifting tackle from Sam Thaiday, bringing the score to 4-2 after 15 minutes.
To continue the penalty-fest, Queensland got four in a row, before they elected to take the points and level things up at 4-4.
It was an aggressive, niggly first half that saw the Blues take a distinct advantage for much of the half, but a couple of poor kicks and a handling error from Greg Bird killed the momentum they had accumulated.
But despite their dominance, it was Queensland who would score the first try of the game. NSW attempted to put further pressure on the Maroons by running the ball on the fifth tackle, but a bit of loose interplay between centre and winger for the Blues saw the ball spill loose to Gagai, who ran 80 metres to score a try.
Despite a gargantuan effort from Tyson Frizell, who made an effort to ankle tap the winger, he managed to slide over, and Thurston converted to give Queensland a 10-4 lead.
The final ten minutes saw the game open up slightly, with both sides tossing the ball around a little more, giving Michael Jennings in particular a bit of space to work in. Neither side could capitalise on the more open football, and the teams went to the sheds at 10-4.
In the end, it was simply a matter of poise for the Blues, who couldn’t show it at the back end of sets of six, and really that was the only reason they failed to put a four-pointer on the board.
Queensland found themselves under a bit of pressure, but defended ably enough to hold the Blues out.
You have to give credit to NSW, they kept coming despite Queensland playing excellently in the second half, but in the end it was too much.
What did you make of the game Roarers?