State of Origin: Blues claim series win

By David Skipwith

The Blues celebrate winning the State of Origin series. Photo / Getty Images
The Blues celebrate winning the State of Origin series. Photo / Getty Images

New South Wales ended Queensland's eight year-reign as State of Origin champions with a series winning 6-4 victory in a fiery second match at ANZ Stadium in Sydney last night.

Two penalties to five-eighth Johnathan Thurston gave Queensland a 4-0 halftime lead and a strong second-half defensive job looked to have them headed for victory, before New South Wales halfback Trent Hodkinson dummied through to score the only try of the match with less than 10 minutes remaining.

The Bulldogs number seven then calmly slotted the angled conversion to give the Blues a two-point winning margin before closing the game out through the tense final minutes.

The result sees Blues coach Laurie Daley become just the second person to experience a series victory as a player, captain and coach, after former Blues great Wayne Pearce, while his Queensland counterpart Mal Meninga suffered his first series loss since his appointment in 2006.

The Blues will now look to underline their dominance by completing a series whitewash when they head to Brisbane for the third and final interstate match at Suncorp Stadium on July 9.

The first half featured little open play as both sides became locked in a physical battle in the middle of the park, with late hits and niggling tactics a constant feature of every gang tackle.

Queensland adjusted better to the grinding nature of the contest, while their senior playmakers Cameron Smith and Thurston directed play efficiently to ease the early pressure on halfback Daly Cherry-Evans' injured right knee.

Tensions threatened to boil over on several occasions but a penalty against New South Wales for slowing the play the ball allowed Thurston to post first points with a kick from close range in the 14th minute.

The Blues battled to improve their field position but lost a chance to level when a rush of blood from five-eighth Josh Reynolds saw him take a quick-tap instead of allowing Hodkinson a relatively easy shot at goal.

Any rising momentum from the home side was quickly quelled, however, when prop James Tamou was penalised for a forearm on Nate Myles, gifting Thurston his second goal to see him overtake Meninga's record as the highest point-scorer in Origin history.

Both sides had attacking chances inside the closing stages of the first half but a lack of structure from the Blues saw them come up empty, while the Maroons went to the sheds with their tails up.

A dangerous lifting tackle from Anthony Watmough in the first minute of the second-half allowed Queensland to head straight back down into opposition territory, and the heavy defensive load looked to be taking its toll on the Blues.

They clung on and were fortunate not to fall further behind when fullback Jarryd Hayne arrived to knock the ball from a rampaging Sam Thaiday's grasp as he dived for the line.

Hayne, New South Wales' best player in game one, was kept quiet by the Maroons defence, and struggled to get the ball with any space or time.

Three attacking sets passed without him touching the ball and the Blues attack suffered as a result. It took an age for their playmakers to take charge but the Maroons' line finally yielded when Hodkinson produced the match-winning play.

The final stages were again marred in controversy with Reynolds and Thurston being placed on report but the Blues cared little as they set about celebrating their first series success since 2006.

New South Wales 6 (Hodkinson try; 1 con)

Queensland 4 (Thurston 2 pens)

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a5 at 28 Aug 2014 02:28:29 Processing Time: 526ms