There is plenty of life in the State of Origin champions yet. Queensland, roared on by a magnificent Brisbane crowd, crushed New South Wales by 26 - 6 last night to set up a tantalising rugby league decider in Sydney on July 17.
The NRL's anti violence edict following game one created a 10-minute farce in the middle of the Queensland triumph. The game was reduced to 11 on 11 in the 54th minute, with Trent Merrin and Greg Bird from New South Wales, and Queensland's Brent Tate and Justin Hodges sinbinned en masse by the referees after a brawl. Tate in
particular seemed harshly dealt with.
The one strike rule certainly applied to Merrin, who threw punches at Tate, but theothers - and the series' reputation - appeared victims of over zealous or confused officiating.
Seeking an eighth consecutive title, Queensland rose from their off-colour performance in Sydney to destroy the Blues at Suncorp Stadium, Australasia's finest football theatre. Star Queensland playmaker Johnathan Thurston, who rose from a sick bed to play, hurled a wonderful long pass for Darius Boyd's second try in the 48th minute, creating an 18 - 0 lead that ended any faint New South Wales hopes.
A Greg Inglis try shortly after the brawl just added to the NSW misery.
There had been no obvious sequel to the violence of game one until shortly after Boyd's second try, when the teams came together as Mitchell Pearce and Billy Slater scuffled. Slater, the Queensland fullback, was penalised for striking Pearce. This provided New South Wales with a gilt edged scoring chance but it ended in failure.
New South Wales were on the back foot from the outset, being crushed by a Queensland blitz in the first quarter. After a vitriolic build up to the match, the Brisbane crowd gave Paul Gallen, the bad-boy NSW captain, the expected wild reception as he led his side on to the field. But that was nothing compared to what a Sam Thaiday-inspired Maroons side had waiting for the old enemy.
The game was less than two minutes old when Thaiday charged over for the first try and Boyd soon followed with Thurston - who was taken to hospital the night before the match with stomach cramps - landing all the goals on offer in the half. Gallen prevented another try with a great save on Corey Parker just before the Boyd score but it was only a
small obstacle against a stream of one way traffic.
The first Queensland error in the 20th minute provided mild relief and a glimmer of hope for New South Wales, and the introduction of the big Cronulla forward Andrew Fifita put momentum into the visitors' game.
But their organisation on attack was poor and too lateral with James Maloney, who had been targeted by Thaiday and company from the kickoff, struggling for creativity and accuracy from his last-play kicks. While New South Wales found good positions in the second quarter, they never threatened the Queensland line during that spell. At 14 - 0 down, NSW were almost out for the count at halftime, but it could have been worse.
Queensland 26 (D. Boyd 2, S. Thaiday, G. Inglis tries, J. Thurston 5 goals),
New South Wales 6 (B. Morris try, J. Maloney goal). Halftime: 14 - 0.