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The New South Wales Blues have defeated a gallant Queensland Maroons 18-4 in State of Origin III at a packed Suncorp Stadium tonight.
A battered and bruised Maroons were hammered by injuries to key players and were reduced to a one man bench while trailing by just 6-4 at the half time break.
With the series already decided, following Queensland's victories in Origins I and II, NSW's pride was on the line while Queensland was aiming for 3-0 whitewash.
But the match started off poorly for the Queenslanders with Dallas Johnson being heavily concussed after just 18 seconds of play. The lock forward was later joined in the sheds by wingers Greg Inglis and Brent Tate, both assisted off with knee ligament injuries.
NSW opened the scoring in the 22nd minute when winger Jarryd Hayne backed up to grab a four-pointer in the corner. The sideline conversion from Origin debutant Hazem El Masri saw the visitors up by six.
Queensland struck back four minutes later through centre Justin Hodges, but half back Johnathan Thurston was unable to convert 10 metres in from touch.
Johnson was able to make a miraculous return soon after the break, but this was soon negated when utility forward Nate Myles was forced off with a shoulder injury.
Despite the circumstances, a courageous Maroons line scrambled well and held firm for most of the second half. NSW looked certain to score with centre Matt Cooper being denied twice, the second occasion when he was held up following some desperate defence from Queensland centre Steven Bell.
Following numerous raids from both sides, and equally impressive defence, the Queensland guard finally tired enough for centre Matt King to find space out wide. With just five minutes remaining El Masri converted to give the Blues a 12-4 lead.
A try in the corner and another tremendous conversion in the final minute to El Masri put the icing on a well deserved NSW victory, although the final 18-4 scoreline was not a true indicator of the epic clash which had just taken place.
State of Origin III - Full Time :: July 4th, 2007 08:00 PM Venue: Suncorp Stadium Referee: Paul Simpkins Half time: NSW 6-4 Crowd: 52,469
Queensland 4 Tries: Justin Hodges Goals: Johnathan Thurston (0/1) New South Wales 18 Tries: Jarryd Hayne, Matt King, Hazem El Masri Goals: Hazem El Masri (3/3)
QUEENSLAND WIN 2007 STATE OF ORIGIN SERIES 2-1
LeagueUnlimited.com Player of the Match 3 Points: Greg Bird (Blues) 2 Points: Cameron Smith (Maroons) 1 Point: Matt Cooper (Blues) LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary With Queensland having won Origins I and II and the series wrapped up, New South Wales are playing for pride.
The NSW Blues have made a few changes from Origin II, notably back rower Paul Gallen coming in and winger Hazem El Masri also getting a call up. Blues: Stewart, Hayne, King, Cooper, El Masri, Bird, Kimmorley, Mason, Buderus, Kite, Hindmarsh, Ryan, Gallen. Interchange: Simpson, Bailey, Hoffman, K Gidley. Coach: Graham Murray
The Qld Maroons have lost forward Neville Costigan with a broken hand, his place to be taken by the experienced Dane Carlaw. As reported, Matt Bowen was called up last week to replace Jacob Lillyman on the bench. Maroons: Hunt, Tate, Bell, Hodges, Inglis, Lockyer (c), Thurston, Price, Smith, Civoniceva, Carroll, Webb, Johnson. Interchange: Berrigan, Carlaw, Myles, Bowen. Coach: Mal Meninga
Centrebet Odds: Maroons $1.53; Blues $2.60
A SELLOUT CROWD here at old Lang Park with the locals hoping for a 3-0 whitewash! Great conditions for night football after Brisbane was bathed in sunshine all day. Kick off not too far away... Players on the field. National Anthem underway...
Lockyer starts proceedings. NSW to receive. KICK OFF!
1 min: INJURY Qld lock forward Dallas Johnson knocked out in the first tackle of the game, his head coming into contact with the knee of NSW forward Brent Kite. Johnson leaves the field. Berrigan is his replacement.
7 min: The game in the early stages being mainly played in the NSW half, and both sides making a couple of unforced errors.
11 min: BIFF Blues lock Paul Gallen delivers a slo-mo coat-hanger to Qld back rower Tonie Carroll. Players come in from both sides. Qld get the penalty.
15 min: NSW get their first real attacking opportunity with Qld winger Greg Inglis kicking the ball dead. Follows an attacking raid by Qld at the other end of the field. Inglis looks to be struggling a little with a leg injury.
18 min: NSW on the attack again. Follows a penalty after Qld winger Brent Tate takes out NSW winger Hayne after he kicked ahead out wide. NSW get a repeat set before the ball coughs up, Qld regain possession and are off the hook.
22 min: TRY New South Wales Jarryd Hayne scores out wide after backing up centre Matt Cooper, follows sustained pressure particularly down NSW's left side. Conversion attempt from the sideline by Hazem El Masri is successful. New South Wales 6-0
22 min: INJURIES Queensland winger Greg Inglis comes off after succumbing to a knee injury. NSW half back Brett Kimmorley also receiving ongoing treatment but will stay out there.
26 min: TRY Queensland Qld strike back. Justin Hodges scores 10m in from touch following a classy backline movement from 10m out. Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston unsuccessful. New South Wales 6-4
31 min: INJURY Queensland winger Brent Tate looks to be in some strife hobbling around after being hammered into touch by Cooper and Hayne. Tate tries to stay on but eventually has no choice but to come off.
36 min: Not far from half time now. Queensland running out of troops and looking forward to the break, the home side reportedly reduced to a one man bench.
HALF TIME NSW 6-4 Qld showing plenty of spirit but just hanging on as both sides fumbled their way to the half time break. Lots of niggle in the match but its the big hits which are seeing the injury toll mount. NSW five eighth Greg Bird a stand out in defence, not doing too many tackles but hammering his opposites close to the ruck when neccessary. Hooker Cameron Smith is Qld's best and has put in big effort in defence and with the ball in hand. Penalties favour NSW 5-4 but NSW making a few more handling errors. Possession is pretty even overall. The big problem for Qld is that they simply don't have enough players in reserve and should run out of puff. NSW should be able to build the pressure and win with Cooper, King and Bird finding room wide of the ruck, but this is Origin football and anything can happen.
Second half underway...
41 min: Huge bust of some 80m starting with forward Ryan Hoffman standing wide. With support both sides, Hoffman passes inside to fullback Brett Stewart who tries to lob back to Cooper. The play eventually breaks down thanks to some great scrambling defence from Qld.
44 min: NEWS A courageous Dallas Johnson comes on to replace back rower Carl Webb, thereby giving the Maroons a second man on the bench. Webb played the full 40 min in the first half.
49 min: INJURIES Things are getting worse for Qld with Nate Myles coming off favouring a shoulder and full back Karmichael Hunt limping.
50 min: HELD UP and NO TRY - NSW denied by video ref after a flying Matt Cooper is amazingly held up by centre/winger Steven Bell. Desperate defence.
53 min: Cameron Smith puts in a mighty 70m kick for touch but is ruled to be just short of the 20m line. NSW get the scrum feed.
55 min: Qld hang on yet again after NSW get a repeat set.
60 min: More tremendous defence from Qld as NSW cannot crack the line. Follows a penalty to NSW in easy kicking range but they took the tap.
INJURY NSW halfback Brett Kimmorley has succumbed to an earlier ligament injury and has been replaced by Kurt Gidley.
62 min: Now NSW's turn to defend as Qld launch a raid from close range. The line holds firm as Qld lose possession but then NSW lose possession a few tackles later and Qld are again attacking, eventually NSW defuse the situation with Cooper marking a Bowen chip out wide.
70 min: Still 6-4 in favour of NSW and the epic struggle continues. This match well and truly up for grabs.
74 min: TRY New South Wales Centre Matt King scores what could be the match winner for NSW. Follows a quick set of hands out on the NSW right side as the defence finally presents a gap. El Masri now with the job of kicking the match possibly out of reach, 10m in from touch. Conversion attempt by Hazem El Masri successful!!! New South Wales 12-4
79 min: TRY New South Wales El Masri gets a four-pointer after receiving a loose pass from Gallen who was attempting to crash over. 5m in from touch. Conversion attempt by Hazem El Masri successful to cap off a fine night for the NSW debutant. New South Wales 18-4
FULL TIME NSW have defeated a gallant QLD side by 18-4 - the match only decided in the final minutes.