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34 hours ago
Queensland captain Darren Lockyer swears his side can bounce back in game three of the State of Origin series after losing to New South Wales 32-22 last night in Sydney.
The Blues squared the series with a victory in front of a sell-out crowd at the Olympic Stadium.
Queensland is still without a win after 10 appearances at the ground but Lockyer said their performance left the Maroons confident of winning the series at Lang Park next month.
"We'll regroup now," Lockyer said. "Right up until five minutes after half-time we were right in it.
"The boys can still hold their heads up high and can go back to Brisbane pretty confident."
Queensland coach Michael Hagan said some questionable refereeing calls put his side on the back foot in last night's loss.
Steven Clarke had control of Origin II after the respective states effectively vetoed the chances of the National Rugby League's top two referees, Paul Simpkins and Tim Mander.
Maroons winger Ty Williams crossed in the corner just after the break but the try was disallowed due to a questionable forward pass ruling.
That try, had it stood and been converted, would have pushed the visitors out to an 18-8 lead.
Hagan said the fact the Blues regained the lead shortly after cost his side dearly.
"I thought we didn't get a whole heap of luck in the game either," Hagan said.
"I think we had one pulled back just after half-time too which was probably line ball and I think they scored a couple of questionable ones down the other end at the same time."
Hagan's counterpart Ricky Stuart put his players on notice after the match to perform for their club sides this weekend.
Stuart accused some of the Blues' players of not putting in enough effort for their clubs on the weekend after Origin I, warning them that such an attitude put their places for the second match of the series in jeopardy.
Stuart reissued the warning lat night, saying all of the New South Wales squad members needed to perform just as well for their own teams in the lead-up to Origin III.
"Again I'll be promoting to the players to go back and lead the way in regards to their club football now and show that they appreciate the club, their club coaches and the club players," Stuart said.
Stuart also praised half-back Andrew Johns, after the Blues' playmaker produced a man of the match performance in his return to Origin football after more than a season wrecked by injury.
Johns had a hand in all five of the Blues' tries in what was just his second match back after an eight-week break recovering from a broken jaw.
The Newcastle half-back - who also missed almost all of the 2004 season after suffering a serious knee injury - was called into the Blues' squad after Trent Barrett suffered an injury in training.
Stuart said Johns's performance was a reminder that he is among the best the game has seen.
"It was outstanding for a bloke who has been out of the game for so long," Stuart said. "We all call him a champion and he's living up to the tag extremely well."
For his part, Johns ranked his performance last night as one of his best for New South Wales.
"It's right up there," he said. "I've missed not playing the last couple of years so it's great to come back and great to be involved with so many great people in the camp.
"It was a special night tonight, but we all know there's still one to go and it will mean nothing unless we go up there and aim up."
Hagan, who coaches Johns at club level with Newcastle, said it no surprise to see the half-back play so well.
"I think we weren't surprise that he was given the opportunity and he took it with both hands," Hagan said.
"He has demonstrated time and again that he's a class player and certainly belongs on that stage."
Several players are nursing injuries after last night's clash.
For New South Wales, Penrith winger Luke Rooney injured his groin and St George Illawarra prop Jason Ryles suffered a cut chin.
Queensland's Cowboys pair - prop Carl Webb and winger Matt Sing - were also injured.
Webb was forced off early in the match with a groin injury, while Sing hobbled from the field in the second half with a leg injury.