Late Slater try breaks Blues hearts
Queensland gained a crucial advantage in this years State of Origin series by taking a 1-0 lead courtesy of a 16-12 victory over New South Wales in front of over 52,000 partisan fans at the Suncorp Stadium this morning.
The Maroons took an early lead when Jonathan Thurston chased through a pinpoint kick from Cameron Smith and touched down after just 5 minutes, and Queensland remained in control for the opening half an hour, with Cameron Smith running riot off the back of some very quick play-the-balls.
Some resolute Blues defence kept New South Wales in the contest however, and the introduction of hooker Michael Ennis after 30 minutes put them on the front foot going into half time, despite being behind on the scoreboard.
A controversial forward pass ruling straight off the second half kick-off immediately put Queensland back in control and from the resulting field position and pressure Jiral Yow Yeh scored on his Origin debut after touching down another perfect Cameron Smith kick with 5 minutes gone in the second half. Thurston however missed the touchline conversion.
Queensland continued to apply constant pressure on the Blues defence by forcing three consecutive drop-outs, but failed to convert the pressure into points as Thurston hit the post with a penalty goal from 40 meters out, and New South Wales made the Maroons pay three minutes later as some fantastic footwork by Greg Bird gave him enough space to put Mitchell Pierce in under the sticks. The conversion by Jamie Soward left New South Wales just 4 points behind.
New South Wales then turned the game on its head just three minutes later as Michael Jennings burst through a gap and wrong-footed Billy Slater to sprint over the line to the left of the sticks. Soward again converted to give the Blues the lead for the first time in the game.
That lead lasted little more than two minutes however, as Thurston and Lockyer combined perfectly to put the supporting Billy Slater through a gap and over the line. Thurston added the extras and Queensland once again led by 4 with just seven minutes remaining.
With 50 seconds remaining, a knock-on from the experienced Mark Gasnier proved crucial as Queensland held out for a vital opening win. Cameron Smith was world class in a Man of the Match performance for the Maroons in what was a brutally fantastic match, with hopefully much more to come in games two and three of this legendary series.
Queensland Tries: Thurston (5), Yow Yeh (45), Slater (72).
Conversions: Thurston (2/4)
New South Wales Tries: Pierce (63), Jennings (67).
Conversions: Soward (2/2)
Man of the Match: Cameron Smith (Queensland)