New South Wales finally claimed a thrilling victory over their fierce rivals Queensland in Sydney this morning to level the three-game series.
In an extremely bruising first half, Queensland withstood early pressure from New South Wales‘ excellent kicking game courtesy of Jamie Soward, and after an early Jonathan Thurston penalty for holding down, Cameron Smith scored a typical hookers try after spotting a gap and piling over from dummy-half after 25 minutes to give the Maroons an unlikely 8-0 lead.
The Blues hit back almost immediately as Penrith’s Luke Lewis fielded a pinpoint cross-field kick from Soward to score on the left wing, with Soward excellently converting from the touchline to bring the Blues to within two points at half time.
Five minutes after the break New South Wales took the lead with a special try from Will Hopoate, Origin’s second youngest ever debutant seemed destined to be bundled into touch but somehow managed to ground the ball around the corner flag, and Soward again converted from the touchline to give New South Wales the lead for the first time in the series.
After more sustained Queensland pressure Luke Lewis turned from try-scorer to try-saver with a crunching tackle near his own tryline as Thurston ran the ball on the last tackle, and the Blues turned defence into attack after a penalty. Two consecutive fumbles from an injured Geg Inglis handed NSW three repeat sets, and Anthony Minichello hit a perfectly timed Soward pass to score and finally clinch the game for New South Wales in front of almost 82,000 wildly celebrating Blues fans.
Prop Paul Gallen was inspirational in an unbelievable 80 minute man of the match performance, and the series-deciding Game 3 at the Suncorp Stadium in three weeks time will surely now be the hottest ticket in town.