Andrew Johns comeback sparks NSW

Fulltime score: STATE OF ORIGIN II New South Wales Blues 32 v Queensland Maroons 22

Match summary: An Andrew Johns? inspired revival has seen New South Wales defeat Queensland 32-22 to square up the State of Origin series at Telstra Stadium tonight.

A crowd of over 82,000 people saw the NSW Blues dominate proceedings early and open the scoring when full back Anthony Minichiello crossed for the first of his two tries in the 15th minute. A penalty goal two minutes later put NSW further ahead before the Queensland Maroons struck back when forward Brad Thorn crossed in the 23rd minute.

NSW continued to enjoy the majority of possession but panic play and forced passes eventually took their toll when Maroons full back Billy Slater burst through, running the length the field to score courtesy of an intercept.

At half time, the Queenslanders held a 12-8 lead and were looking to capitalise.

The second half saw the Blues hit back hard with Minichiello getting his double in the 45th minute before stand-in centre Steve Menzies crossed three minutes later. By now, Johns was coming into his own, delivering a sensational 40/20 kick downfield and setting up play both sides of the ruck.

Coming back from injury earlier this month, the Knights? skipper was a late inclusion in the NSW side after Dragons five-eighth Trent Barrett was ruled out with a thigh injury last week.

The huge Sydney crowd were treated to an entertaining display as the Johns of old made a break down the middle of park in the 53rd minute, putting the Queenslanders further on the back foot.

Five minutes later, Blues centre Matt Cooper was on hand to score following a break down the left flank from Mark Gasnier to put NSW 26-12 ahead.

With 10 minutes remaining, Queensland flyer Matt Bowen scored a tremendous 50 metre try to provide some hope of a late charge from the Maroons. But Johns got involved again to set up a try for NSW skipper Danny Buderus in the 76th minute, putting the match beyond doubt.

Queensland forward Petero Civoniceva scored a consolation try seconds before full time.

Johns further stamped his authority on the match with a perfect goal kicking display, notching up three conversions from three attempts.

Both sides will now meet for the State of Origin III decider at Brisbane?s Suncorp Stadium on July 6.

Scorers: NEW SOUTH WALES BLUES 32 Tries: Minichiello 2, Menzies, Cooper, Buderus Goals: Fitzgibbon 3/3, Johns 3/3 QUEENSLAND MAROONS 22 Tries: Thorn, Slater, Bowen, Civoniceva Goals: Smith 3/4

STATE OF ORIGIN II Telstra Stadium Referee: Stephen Clark

Live commentary: A sellout stadium in Sydney tonight with an estimated 82,000 people on hand for State of Origin II. A must-win match for NSW looking to equalise the series. NSW have promoted Steve Simpson to the run-on side in the front row with Luke Bailey playing off the bench. Queensland are coming off their Origin I win last month and only need things to go right tonight to take out the 2005 series.

0 min: Players coming onto the field. Kickoff soon...

NSW Kickoff!

5 min: Still 0-0 but Qld getting the early opportunities with a break down the left side as well as a huge 70 metre break up the middle of the park. NSW strike back with a repeat set at the Qld line.

13 min: NEWS - Early interchange with NSW sending Bailey on in place of Simpson. Still 0-0.

15 min: TRY - NSW. Anthony Minichiello scores under the posts. Follows video ref scrutiny checking for off-side. Andrew Johns kicks ahead from 35 metres out, ball bounces off the padding on the left side post and Minichiello is there to pick up and score. Conversion Craig Fitzgibbon. NSW 6-0

17 min: PENALTY GOAL - NSW. Fitzgibbon no mistake from in front. Petero Civoniceva penalised. NSW 8-0

19 min: NEWS - Qld make their first interchange with Civoniceva comimg off.

21 min: NEWS - Qld get a penalty within kicking range, right in front, but are going for the try.

23 min: TRY - QLD. Brad Thorn scores behind the posts following a high kick from Darren Lockyer. Conversion successful from Cameron Smith. NSW 8-6

28 min: NEWS - Qld forward Carl Webb comes off and heads for the tunnel, reportedly with a groin injury.

33 min: TRY - Qld. Billy Slater scores 10 metres in from touch after NSW were on the attack but an intercept sees Slater run the length of the field! Conversion Smith is a ripper. Qld 12-8

NEWS - NSW may loose winger Luke Rooney who is limping about and taken off. A few minutes earlier, NSW sent the nippy Craig Wing on and then Qld have sent their speedster on in Matt Bowen.

Half time: QLD 12-8 An action-packed first half with NSW getting the better share of possession. An intercept try to Qld and a few misplaced passes from NSW being the difference. Forwards Chris Flannery and Brad Thorn leading the way as Qld have absorbed the NSW pressure. NSW started off with a dominate display early. Half back Andrew Johns still finding his legs but his kicking game and organisation has been a feature of the match so far. The Blues forwards need to lift their game.

Second half underway...

42 min: NO TRY - Qld denied after last pass to Ty Williams is ruled forward. NSW start the second half off in the same way that they finished the first half, impatient play sees them forced into touch and Qld are on the attack from 25 metres out.

NEWS - NSW winger Rooney won't be coming back, Steve Menzies now playing in the centres. Mark Gasnier is on the left wing.

43 min: NEWS - Johns kicks a 40/20.

45 min: TRY - NSW Minichiello crashes over. Johns kicks the conversion from out wide. NSW 14-12

48 min: TRY - NSW. Steve Menzies scores following a repeat set after a Slater fumble. A backline movement sees Menzies through the half gap from close range. Johns converts from near the sideline. NSW 20-12

53 min: NO TRY - NSW denied. A sensation as Johns makes a bust up the middle and passes to Danny Buderus who finds centre Matt Cooper in support. Cooper brushes aside defenders only to be called back by the ref after the pass from Johns to Buderus is ruled to have gone forward. The NSW forwards really stepping up now and Johns is relishing the opportunities. Qld are being starved of possession.

59 min: TRY - NSW. Cooper scores down the left side after he combines with Dragons team mate Mark Gasnier. The play being set up by Johns from half way. Johns conversion 10 metres in from touch is successful. NSW 26-12

63 min: NEWS - Qld winger Matt Sing comes off the field.

70 min: TRY - QLD. Winger Matt Bowen runs onto a ball from Lockyer and bursts through from half way, scoring without a hand being laid on him. Wide conversion from Smith unsuccessful. NSW 26-16

76 min: TRY - NSW. Skipper and hooker Danny Buderus scores after Andrew Johns jigs and steps and then puts his Knights team mate into a yawning gap. All over red rover. Conversion Fitzgibbon from in front. NSW 32-16

80 min: TRY - QLD. Civoniceva scores next to the uprights after the NSW defence slackens off just before the bell. Conversion Smith. NSW 32-22

Full time: NSW 32-22. The Blues have come back in the second half, scoring five tries to four to square the series. Andrew Johns was the stand out with an excellent kicking and passing game as NSW controlled the ruck and made numerous in-roads up the centre of the field. The entire NSW pack redeeming themselves in fine style after the Origin I loss. Ben Kennedy, Nathan Hindmarsh and Jason Ryles all stepping up in both defence and attack with Ryles leading the charge in metres gained. For Queensland, they were simply shut out in the second half and unable to match it up front. Centre Paul Bowman and forward Cameron Smith topped the tackle count for the Maroons.

----------------------------------------- players of the match: 3 - A Johns (NSW) 2 - J Ryles (NSW) 1 - N Hindmarsh (NSW) -----------------------------------------