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.
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.
Queensland Maroons 8 New South Wales Blues 12
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
Halftime Score: Queensland Maroons 4 New South Wales Blues 10
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Jarryd Hayne
2 points - Josh Morris
1 point - Darius Boyd
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary
Welcome one and all to the greatest nights you could experience in rugby league - State of Origin. Tonight is game 100 as these two teams have clashed 99 times before in 33 series. It is the 34th edition at Suncorp and once again the trophy is held in abeyance. Queensland are looking to begin their campaign on cloud nine tonight while New South Wales want to prove two heads aren't better than one and hopefully the Hayne Plane will have lift-off.
The build up for this clash has been akin to a pleasant disagreement with the only noteworthy incident being that Queensland don't have the moves like Jagger. New South Wales have holed themselves up in Coffs Harbour the week before with Paul Gallen anointing himself the pantomime villain after his two heads comment.
After all the talk though the game is played on the field not in sound bytes. Queensland - well journalists will be frantically looking to their thesauruses to describe this team in the coming years. They feature a majority of the Australian team including the spine of Slater, Thurston, Cronk and Smith not to mention Matt Scott who is the best front rower in the competition currently.
For New South Wales it is once again, a new halves pairing as Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson (without the G for all the commentators). The pairing have led Canterbury to the summit of the NRL will want to do the same for the Blues combined with a devastating backline including a resurgent Jarryd Hayne and high jump aspirant Daniel Tupou.
NSW have gone with a mobile forward pack and will look to tire out Queensland before popping the offload.
Enough of the talk - join LeagueUnlimited and myself here after just after 8pm for the action of the opening origin game of 2014.
TEAM CHANGES: There are none. Besides fricken lazers coming up in the pre-game to celebrate the 100th origin game. Better than Jason Derulo I guess?
Well. How about that pre-game? Channel nine has their detractors but they can do a damn good montage! They highlighted the Origin moments throughout the 33 years leading to tonight's teams to continue on the legacy. 15 minutes until kick-off.
It's been a lengthy build-up and they did say it was an 8:16pm kick-off! Suncorp is jam packed, come with me by Kashmir is playing! Here we go - origin one is moments away.. final hugs and handshakes before the game begins.
Here come the NSW Blues to a chorus of boos mainly directed at captain Paul Gallen. Next out is Queensland, by-passing Arthur Beetson's famous #11 jersey, led out by Beetson's family members - it is a rapturous reception for the holders and eight time champions! We will pause for the traditional anthems.. then it all begins again.
1: Well done Phoebe - a stirring rendition here. Thurston with boot to ball here we go!
3: Both teams have got through their first set here.. not surprising it has been an arm wrestle.
5: Queensland earn the first line break through McQueen. They have a set right on the Blues line after a Nate Myles bomb.. yes you read that right.
5: VIDEO REFEREE: Simple scrum play, Queensland found Boyd who is indifferent at club level but a star on the representative scene. Checking sideline and grounding.
7: UNSUCCESSFUL CONVERSION QUEENSLAND MAROONS
Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston unsuccessful.
Johnathan Thurston with his first kick of the night.. from the sideline, Thurston walks in and swings it wide.
10: INJURY: Cooper Cronk is OFF the field and down the tunnel with a shoulder injury.
13: UNFORCED ERROR QUEENSLAND MAROONS
Justin Hodges makes an unforced error.
Justin Hodges with a much needed intervention, as Hayne tried to find Jennings on the overlap. NSW with a scrum 20 metres out.
15: Hodkinson playing the pressure game here. He jabbed a kick through for Hayne to chase, the fullback was beaten to the ball by his opposite number but Jarryd was able to claim him in-goal.
18: PENALTY NSW - Hayne with a charging run tempted Hodges into an ill-advised facial.
19: TRY NEW SOUTH WALES BLUES
Scored by Brett Morris. Kick to come.
Jarryd Hayne has been probing the defensive line, looking for the overlap.. he found Josh Morris who instinctively saw his brother on the inside for the easy try.
21: UNSUCCESSFUL CONVERSION NEW SOUTH WALES BLUES
Conversion attempt by Trent Hodkinson unsuccessful.
Trent Hodkinson has been kicking at 80% in the NRL, can he match it in origin? Nope he hooked that.
24: PENALTY NSW! The blues have come alive here.. two offloads, one from Gallen and the other from Woods sent them downfield. Their momentum forced Queensland to hold down and concede the penalty. Gallen points to the sticks.
24: SUCCESSFUL PENALTY GOAL NEW SOUTH WALES BLUES
Penalty goal attempt by Trent Hodkinson successful.
Hodkinson looking to be better with his second kick in the origin arena.. this one is right in front only twenty metres out. Steps up and pilots it through. NSW lead.
29: UNFORCED ERROR QUEENSLAND MAROONS
Cameron Smith makes an unforced error.
BOOM.. headshot! Nate Myles with the first ruck off the penalty offloads it to an oblivious Smith who knocks on from his snoz.
30: A much better kick from Hodkinson that time.. Tupou lept high, much like he does at club level and Jennings shepherds it into Hodges and over the sideline. Scrum NSW.
32: The Blues are trying to find Hayne at every opportunity here.. he found Josh Morris who was headed for the sideline but he flicked it inside, touching Thurston for more NSW possession.
32: VIDEO REFEREE: Jarryd Hayne was just rumbling and tumbling to the try-line, checking double movement.
32: TRY NEW SOUTH WALES BLUES
Scored by Jarryd Hayne. Kick to come.
GREEN LIGHTS..TRY! Hayne never stopped his momentum there. He busted through the Thurston tackle, slipping off Inglis and Smith for the four pointer.
35: The crowd was baying for blood and they earnt it.. Merrin caught in the ruck. QLD PENALTY.
37: UNFORCED ERROR QUEENSLAND MAROONS
Matt Gillett makes an unforced error.
A precise set move from Queensland was brewing there, as Smith tried the face ball to Gillett who spilled it.
40: HALFTIME! What an absorbing half of football. It started with a wonderful exhibition of rugby league from Queensland before Jarryd Hayne exploded into the game - assisting and scoring one. NSW 10, QLD 4 HALFTIME.
41: Gallen leads out his troops again, ready to kick us off for the second forty of an absorbing contest. The home side with Meninga's words ringing in their ears follow through Cameron Smith. Hodkinson puts boot to ball and here we go!
44: It is all bouncing NSW here.. Hayne with an old school punt balked Slater so Williams could knock it into a Queenslander for SIX MORE. Queensland looking to slow it down concede a PENALTY. Once again, Gallen points to the sticks.
44: SUCCESSFUL PENALTY GOAL NEW SOUTH WALES BLUES
Penalty goal attempt by Trent Hodkinson successful.
Ten out, right in front.. Hodkinson slams it through.
46: Queensland are licorice all sorts now.. Cameron Smith is down favouring his shoulder as well.
47: Another bomb, another result for the Blues. Greg Inglis caught just in-goal.
49: UNFORCED ERROR NEW SOUTH WALES BLUES
Daniel Tupou makes an unforced error.
Hayne after successfully setting up Morris for the first try.. tried the same with a cut-out to Tupou. The winger had no room to move and knocks it on trying to keep it in.
49: Queensland needed that.. after all the pressure, Watmough gives away a piggyback.
52: That was tough defense from a charging Guerra run. Paul Gallen saved them the tackle before and NSW scrambled to save.
53: Frantic stuff here.. it is end to end football. Hayne and Cherry-Evans the protagonists.
55: Out of nothing.. Justin Hodges produced a repeat set for the home side. His grubbering kick was taken dead by Jennings and Hayne.
56: TRY QUEENSLAND MAROONS
Scored by Darius Boyd. Kick to come.
It's Boyd once again! That was created from the previous tackle as they drew the defenders in. Thurston goes down the short side, Inglis.. Boyd over for his second.
57: UNSUCCESSFUL CONVERSION QUEENSLAND MAROONS
Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston unsuccessful.
The architect now has a chance to put the deficit back to two. It is a sideline assignment like his first, swings it but not enough.
59: Dear, oh dear. Tupou tried to make the superman leap, dropped it and his attempted bat back was right into the hands of Thurston.
62: NSW repel Queensland who are attacking in waves now. They sense blood.
65: Fifteen to go.. game in the balance. We're set for a dramatic finish here.
66: UNFORCED ERROR QUEENSLAND MAROONS
Johnathan Thurston makes an unforced error.
Just as I say that, Thurston spills it.
68: PENALTY Queensland - Thurston dabbed a kick that was recovered by Hayne. Unfortunately he was taken out.
70: Final ten. Four in the game. NSW start on their own 20.
70: PENALTY New South Wales - Myles was pinged for a rake.
72: SIX MORE.. or not. He initially called it six again from Inglis' knock down but changed it to a scrum.
73: PENALTY Queensland - tackled without the ball. Queensland 30 metres out, four behind.
75: RED LIGHTS..NO TRY! Brett Morris with a try-saver there. He held up Boyd before the cavalry arrived and carried him into touch.
79: Thurston takes it right to the line, stabbing it through.. McQueen was inches away from leveling proceedings. Hayne is there just in front of him.
79: One more set for Queensland to win this. Six tackles. Here we go from the Hodkinson dropout.
80: Cherry-Evans spills it back and Slaters kicks it right into Hodkinson. Referee says knock on. One more scrum.
80: Justin Hodges is down. He didn't knock it on. Play the ball.
80: PENALTY Queensland. Jennings stole it from the play-the-ball. One play.
80: Queensland try to spread it left, got it to the man who scored twice tonight Boyd who poked his nose through but is swarmed by NSW defenders. FULLTIME! NSW 12, QLD 8 in an epic.