Queensland Maroons took the first steps on retaining their State of Origin crown.
The Maroons led 24-6 after 43 minutes and appeared to have the match in their control, but two fortuitous tries to the Blues ensured a tense finish to an enthralling football game. Led by two tries to centre Greg Inglis and a flawless game from man of the match Johnathan Thurston, the Maroons secured a five-tries-to-three 28-18 victory to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series. Queensland skipper Darren Lockyer missed a field goal attempt in the 75th minute but it didn’t matter as the Blues couldn’t conjure the try they needed to level the game before winger Darius Boyd rammed home the win with a try on the siren.
Queensland will now head to Sydney’s ANZ Stadium on June 24 for the chance to secure the series and become the first team in 30 years of State of Origin to win four straight titles.
Lockyer said: (quote) We just couldn’t throw the killer punch, in the second half a couple of deflections didn’t go our way and put them back in the game and in the end we hung on. At 24-6 we just needed the next points and we were home. (end quote)
Meninga praised the exceptional talent in his side and admitted his men were now in the box seat to become the greatest Origin team in history. He said: (quote) It was not a perfect performance by us but we just won the footy game. That’s step one, two to go. (end quote)
NSW started exceptionally well but things turned sour after Jarryd Hayne was denied a sensational try in the eighth minute when the video referees deemed his left foot brushed the touchline as he danced 40 metres down the field to score. NSW coach Craig Bellamy slammed the decision as a major turning point but conceded his young side failed to respond to the mental setback as the next eight minutes brought three Maroon tries.
State of Origin football made another triumphant return to Melbourne as 50,967 fans turned out to Etihad Stadium to see Queensland move another step closer to an unprecedented fourth consecutive series win.