Scintillating Decider is set Up at Suncorp Stadium after NSW Claw Back MCG Win
As ever, Origin II proved another thrilling experience with the scores see sawing at the MCG before the NSW Blues claimed victory. But for me the match was marred by poor refereeing decisions, which undoubtedly affected the outcome.
After the Queensland Maroons had claimed the narrowest of victories in game one, in Sydney, NSW needed a win to have any chance of retaining the title that they secured last year, after an eight year drought.
NSW took an early lead, but Queensland hit back almost immediately. Scores were exchanged; keeping the match very even until refereeing decisions, which had been pretty pernickety up to that point, took an undoubted consequence on the final outcome.
At 20-18 Mitchell Pearce was judged to have taken a forward pass before scoring for NSW, when the TV shots really didn’t look to back up the decision. But far worse was the ruling out of the Greg Inglis length of the field try, for a knock on which almost certainly came off of the leg of a NSW player.
I’m all for replays to rule out suspect decisions, but when every try has to be replayed incessantly to look for any infraction and you have to go back the length of the field to find one, I think the game is being replayed to death and you start to wonder who is really officiating the game.
The ABC’s full report of the game illustrates the ebb and flow that made it another close contest, that is somewhat denied by the final 26-18 score line.
New South Wales levelled the State of Origin series at 1-1 following a pulsating 26-18 victory over Queensland in Game II at the MCG.
The Blues had fallen behind the Maroons 18-14 midway through the second half before storming back with converted tries to Aaron Woods and Josh Dugan to claim the win in front of an Origin record crowd of 91,513.
The series decider will be played at Lang Park on July 8, with the Maroons having won Origin I in Sydney last month.
The Blues’ triumph may be soured by a suspected rib injury sustained by captain Paul Gallen, although coach Laurie Daley was confident his skipper would be fit for Origin III.
Blues centre Michael Jennings, who scored the opening try of the encounter, said his team would enjoy the win but were determined to remain grounded ahead of the series decider.
“We can take a lot out of that it was a good win, it was a tough one,” he told Grandstand.
“It is even going to be tougher up there in Queensland. So I think we will celebrate the win but we’ve still got one more, one more game.”
The Blues could not have asked for a better start, having gained vital field position from a penalty during the early exchanges.
They came close to scoring in just the second minute of play but after earning a repeat set of six they struck first blood when Jennings bolted over for his try.
The Blues pushed play towards the left edge and when the ball found Jennings he beat a weak Will Chambers tackle to touch down and with Trent Hodkinson’s conversion they led 6-0 after just five minutes.
The Maroons appeared shell-shocked but they found composure when it counted to set up Matt Scott’s try under the posts in the 11th minute, gifting Johnathan Thurston the easiest of conversion attempts.
From a play-the-ball deep inside Blues territory Cameron Smith scooted from dummy half to draw two defenders before passing to Corey Parker, who offloaded to Scott on the burst.
Scott bustled his way over to score under the sticks and with Thurston’s conversion it was level at 6-6.
The contest took a dramatic turn when Gallen left the field to receive treatment for his rib complaint before he returned to the bench and in his absence he missed a heated exchange initiated by Billy Slater and James Tamou that brought both teams together for a harmless scuffle.
The Blues were less shaken by the spilling over of emotions and they almost scored soon after when a Brett Morris cross-field kick was taken by Inglis to prevent a possible try but they moved ahead in the 26th minute when Josh Morris added their second four-pointer.
Mitchell Pearce’s well-weighted chip bomb to the right edge saw Josh Morris athletically leap high to take the ball above Thurston and Darius Boyd, giving Hodkinson the chance to convert, which he did to establish a 12-6 advantage.
The Maroons almost answered immediately on the scoreboard when Inglis broke through for a charge towards the Blues line but he was brought down just metres short.
It did not take Inglis long to cross the stripe, however, when he touched the ball twice in a brilliant attacking movement down the left edge that cut the Blues’ defence to shreds.
Thurston could not add the extras from wide out to leave the Blues 12-10 ahead but they extended their lead to 14-10 prior to half-time via a late Hodkinson penalty goal.
Maroons start brightly in second half
It was the Maroons who made a positive start to the second half, dotting down through Matt Gillett just seven minutes after the break.
The Maroons had camped themselves down inside Blues territory after forcing their opponents into a line drop-out when Thurston trapped Dugan inside his in-goal area following an excellent kick chase.
After consecutive sets of six Gillett weaved his way through the flat-footed Blues defence to score to the right of the posts, allowing Thurston to convert for a 16-14 lead.
Thurston extended the Maroons’ buffer on the scoreboard with a 57th-minute penalty goal but the Blues levelled four minutes later when Woods beat two tackles from a short-range run to record his first Origin try.
Hodkinson converted to put the Blues in front 20-18 but they were denied back-to-back tries when Pearce was judged to have taken a forward pass before streaking over.
It almost proved to be a costly call for the reigning series winners, as soon after Inglis appeared to score a scintillating runaway try only for it to be disallowed because Nate Myles had knocked on when making a tackle that freed the ball up for his team-mate.
The Blues, though, were next to score when Dugan took a sensational flat ball from Hodkinson from 11 metres out to spring through the disorganised Maroons defence to put his side further ahead.
Hodkinson converted for the 26-18 lead in 72nd minute and despite a series of flashpoints when the tension got the better of both teams, the Blues had done enough to secure the victory.
The crowd figure beat the previous Origin record of 88,836 for Game II of the 1999 series at Sydney’s Olympic stadium.
The second largest Origin crowd prior to Wednesday evening was the 87,161 who watched the first match to be played at the MCG in 1994.
More at State of Origin: New South Wales Blues level series against Queensland Maroons with 26-18 win in Game II
Don’t miss the decider at Suncorp on July 8th. In the meantime you can pick up State of Origin memorabilia from the links below.
By Max Power