Tonight was the 100th State of Origin contest and it was a classic. New South Wales dug in with defensive resolve to deny Queensland in a 12-8 battle in front of a 52,111 engrossed fans at Suncorp Stadium.
There will be a lot of sore bodies in the morning but the glory will last for much longer. New South Wales produced a defensive effort in that second half, repelling a star studded Queensland team to win at Suncorp, breaking two records. Those being the first win at the stadium since the early 2000s and Trent Hodkinson becoming the first halfback victorious on debut since fellow Bulldog Steve Mortimer.
It was a battle between the two backlines tonight - the back threes of both states producing all four tries in the contest shared between Brett Morris, Darius Boyd and Jarryd Hayne.
Before kick-off it was clear that tonight was going to a cauldron of noise for those wearing maroon while those in sky blue were booed mercilessly highlighted by Paul Gallen being booed on every touch of the ball. The noise would erupt within the opening ten minutes when Darius Boyd - who has become a prolific scorer for his state, was on the end of a textbook backline movement. It was repeated with metronomic ease in the second half to give the winger his brace.
The mantra for Laurie Daley coming into the series this season - was picking players on form. Taking that edict, there was no better player than Jarryd Hayne in the opening ten rounds of the National Rugby League. The custodian stepped up to another level tonight, every charge was taken at full pace marked by a kick return in the first half where he burst onto the ball, like a NFL kick returner.
His skills with the ball highlighted the opening half, as much as the defensive struggle highlighted the second. His slight of hand, finding Josh Morris who in turn went to his brother to respond to Boyd's opener was a lovely piece of vision. The second was pure strength. Hayne poked his nose through the line, tumbled, kept moving like a rolling stone before touching down.
Debutant Hodkinson (no g folks) added penalty goals either side of half-time. Firstly to break the deadlock at 4 all then to extend the lead making it 12-4. Trent worked himself into a contest that doesn't usually lend itself to that - his first half kicks got better as the half went on and found his feet after a shaky start with his first conversion.
Origin folklore is layered with tales of Queensland comebacks. The Coyne miracle try, Cronk's field goal. The reigning champions weren't going away without a fight. They attacked in waves on the New South Wales line, giving skipper Paul Gallen who has experienced each of the eight losing series flashbacks.
These flashbacks evolved into massive doubts when Darius Boyd finished off a movement that would have Newcastle fans hoping he can replicate it this weekend. Queensland back to within four smelt blood and it was evident in their tackling - five sets in succession the Blues were trapped in their own 30 metre line with the radar finding Slater and Boyd on the full.
Possession equals points in the modern rugby league parlance but tonight harkened back to the origin contests of the 80s and 90s where they were low-scoring and high quality. Queensland threw everything at the Blues - repeat sets, drop-outs and penalties kept the game camped in the Maroons half.
New South Wales, battered and bruised - kept turning up. First Jarryd Hayne got to the Thurston grubber just before the onrushing McQueen to prevent the score. Brett Morris, carrying a shoulder injury from his own try notched a try-saver up as he held up Darius Boyd looking for his hat-trick, taking him over the sideline.
It came down to a final set. 78 minutes on the clock, Queensland rampaging down-field with 50,000 fellow statesmen and women baying for blue blood. Cherry-Evans poked through, offloaded with the Slater grubber earnt six more. Tick.. tick.. tick.. 79 minutes on the clock - Justin Hodges bobbles the ball but is hurt. A penalty and it was done to this - a final play to break New South Wales hearts once again but it wasn't to be, Darius Boyd was swamped by half the Blues team. Fulltime.
An absorbing contest wasn't without it's causalities though - Cooper Cronk departed the game ten minutes in with a shoulder complaint. Brett Morris played on with a similar injury. Cameron Smith and Daly Cherry-Evans hobbling through the game and post putting chills down their club coaches back.
There is also the sideshow of Josh Reynolds who is on report for cartwheeling Brent Tate just before the half hour. The five-eighth was confirmed to received a grade two charge in the immediate aftermath of the game. Ahh origin - it is never without it's drama.