Maroons come back to level Origin series

Queenslander Billy Slater has celebrated his 21st birthday as the Queensland Maroons staged a second half come back to defeat New South Wales 22-18 at Suncorp Stadium tonight.

The win levels the State of Origin series with the decider to be played in Sydney in two weeks time.

The NSW Blues grabbed an early lead when Timana Tahu crossed after just four minutes. NSW continued to dominate the ruck before Slater raced onto an inside ball to score under the posts, putting Queensland back in the match.

But NSW struck back in the 39th minute and at half time, held a handy 12-6 lead.

The second half saw a rejuvenated Maroons outfit throw the ball around and score first, with Willie Tonga stamping his mark on the match.

The turning point of the match however occurred in the 63rd minute when Billy Slater raced onto a kick ahead from Darren Lockyer, and then kicked again for himself to score a sensational Origin try.

Dane Carlaw then cross five minutes later to put Queensland further ahead before Luke Rooney brought NSW within range late in the match.

In the overall history of the State of Origin, Queensland now hold a narrow lead of 35 match wins to New South Wales' 34 wins.

Suncorp Stadium Referee: Sean Hampstead Video Referee: Tim Mander Touch Judges: Steve Chiddy, Steve Carrall

Queensland Maroons 22 Tries: Slater 2, Tonga, Carlaw Goals: Smith 2/3, Lockyer 0/1, Prince 1/2 defeated New South Wales Blues 18 Tries: Tahu 2, Rooney Goals: Fitzgibbon 3/4

By the clock: 0 min: Huge crowd at Lang Park for game two of the 2004 State of Origin series.. kick off!!!

4 min: TRY - NSW. Timana Tahu scores out wide. Fittler into first receiver passes to Matt Gidley who kicks through for Tahu. Conversion Craig Fitzgibbon hits post and is waved away. NSW 4-0

8 min: NO TRY - NSW called back after a run-around is deemed as being obstruction. NSW putting on all the pressure.

10 min: NEWS - QLD now applying the pressure and an overlap develops; but unable to finish with the last pass finding the touchline.

17 min: PENALTY GOAL - NSW. Fitzgibbon has little trouble from right in front. Follows a tremendous bomb which saw QLD fullback Rhys Wesser spill the ball. NSW 6-0

19 min: NEWS - a big bust down left side by Luke Rooney (NSW) is cut down into touch by a sensational covering tackle from Wesser.

25 min: NEWS - NSW enjoying 56% possession. QLD finding few in-roads through the NSW defence.

30 min: NEWS - NSW still dominating possession (57%) and field position as QLD defence holds firm. A bust down the right flank from NSW backrower Nathan Hindmarsh brings the crowd to its feet.

34 min: TRY - QLD. Billy Slater turns the match on its head, taking an inside pass, hitting the gap, and running 20 metres to score under the posts. Conversion Cameron Smith. 6-all

39 min: TRY - NSW. Tahu gets a double following a trademark flick pass from Gidley. Fitzgibbon's conversion from the sideline is a ripper. NSW 12-6

HALF TIME Full marks to the Maroons who are battling for possession and have used plenty of G&T to keep in the match. The question is, will it be enough to overcome NSW in the second half? Half time stats: Completions: NSW 18/22; QLD 17/19 Tackles: QLD 185-152 Mistackles: QLD 14-9 Hitups: NSW 99-83 Penalties: QLD 4-3 Score: NSW 12-6

Second half underway...

44 min: TRY - QLD. Willie Tonga scores out wide courtesy of an overlap. Follows a section of broken play with both sides spilling possession. Darren Lockyer eventually getting involved and setting up the backline play. Conversion attempt from Smith across the face of goal. NSW 12-10

50 min: NEWS - Exciting play as Chris Flannery (QLD) looks certain to score only to be cut down short of the line and losing posession. Luke Lewis (NSW) then makes a huge bust only to be stopped by some determined QLD cover defence. Queenslander Willie Tonga going up another gear as the home side are suddenly finding plenty of width.

55 min: NEWS - QLD penalty goal attempt from Darren Lockyer is unsuccessful. 10m in from touch and 20m out. Follows back-to-back penalties to QLD.

63 min: TRY - QLD. A sensational try from Billy Slater who regathered a Lockyer kick ahead, put on a side step, kicked again for himself, and then scored next to the posts. Classic rugby league football! Conversion Scott Prince. QLD 16-12

66 min: NO TRY - NSW. Tahu is denied a hat trick by the video ref when the man of the moment, Billy Slater forces him into the corner post.

68 min: TRY - QLD. Dane Carlaw beats Tahu and scores out wide as QLD take control of the match. Possession now 50% each. Conversion Prince unsuccessful. QLD 20-12

73 min: TRY - NSW Rooney scores in the corner beating several defenders. Follows some big hit ups from Hindmarsh and Willie Mason. Fitzgibbon's conversion from the sideline is spot on. QLD 20-18

78 min: NEWS - Penalty to QLD and it looks like they'll be taking a shot at goal.

79 min: PENALTY GOAL - QLD. Cameron Smith makes no mistake. QLD 22-18

FULL TIME: The Queenslanders have come back to defeat the Blues 22-18, forcing the series into a decider.

Full time stats: Completions: NSW 28/40; QLD 36/41 Tackles: NSW 317-305 Mistackles: QLD 28-22 Hitups: QLD 171-169 Penalties: QLD 7-4 Score: QLD 22-18

----------------------------------------- players of the match: 3 - B Slater (QLD) 2 - N Hindmarsh (NSW) 1 - W Tonga (QLD) -----------------------------------------