Blues level Origin series as Maroons limp home
may be without Billy Slater and Corey Parker for next month's State of Origin decider in Brisbane following a bruising 16-12 loss to New South Wales at Sydney's Olympic stadium last night.by NRL
may be without Billy Slater and Corey Parker for next month's State of Origin decider in Brisbane following a bruising 16-12 loss to New South Wales at Sydney's Olympic stadium last night.
Parker has had surgery on a badly lacerated leg and Slater will have scans on a damaged left knee this afternoon.
New South Wales scores two tries within three minutes at the beginning of the second half to lead 16-6 while Queensland half-back Cooper Cronk was in the sin-bin.
Maroons centre Greg Inglis scored with 17 minutes to go to keep alive Queensland's chances of taking the game and seventh successive series.
In the end it was the much-maligned Michael Jennings - who could not even get a game for Penrith when chosen for Origin I last month - who saved the day for the Blues, with a try-saving goal-line play to knock the ball out of Brent Tate's hands with 10 minutes left.
Queensland battered the Blues' line but could not find a way through as time ran out to leave the vast majority of the 83,110 fans in attendance celebrating a New South Wales win.
Extending the Maroons' stranglehold on the series to a seventh straight year may now depend on finding adequate replacements for both Parker and Slater.
In a horror start to the second stanza for Queensland, back rower Parker was carried off after cutting open his leg in the first 30 seconds of the half.
The damage appears likely to keep Parker out for an extended time, while fullback Slater played to take a string of high balls from New South Wales after appearing to take a serious knock to his knee.
If both players are out for Origin III, it will put pressure on Queensland selectors to find a side to match a Blues' outfit brimming with confidence for the decider.
Blues full-back Brett Stewart scored two tries and centre Josh Morris one. Todd Carney had a strong game setting up Stewart's second try and almost scoring his own when Cronk held him off the ball to earn a stint in the bin.
The Blues intentions were clear from the outset upsetting Queensland's rhythm with huge hits and tenacious defence.
New South Wales hooker Robbie Farah made an incredible 64 tackles and coach Ricky Stuart said it was an example of the toughness of his Blues team.
"It gives a bit of an understanding of what's within this team," Stuart said after the match.
Stuart praised his side's defence and its ability to withstand Queensland's typical strong finish.
"I'm proud of the way they hung in there and the grit and determination they showed at the end," Stuart said.
Two-try hero Stewart almost had a horror start to the game when he appeared to spill a Cronk bomb in the Blues in-goal after 12 minutes.
Three Queensland players stormed in after the ball but referee Tony Archer ruled the Manly custodian had done enough to ground the ball.
No points were scored until 25 minutes into the match when Stewart crashed through a Johnathan Thurston tackle on the line to score his first try.
The Blues looked like taking a 4-0 lead into the half-time break before Maroons forward Ben Hannant took advantage of a spilled Cronk bomb to dive under the posts right at the end of the first 40 minutes.
Thurston's simple conversion gave Queensland a 6-4 lead before they were stunned by the Blues within minutes of the second stanza.
Queensland lost Parker and then Cronk to the bin within two minutes of the re-start.
Following the Cronk professional foul Carney kicked a penalty goal to level the scores before tries to Stewart and Morris followed.
Morris scored when Jarryd Hayne had the ball stripped out before kicking it through to be collected by a flying Morris.
Inglis's 14th Origin try came from a Thurston bomb into the corned that was batted down by Darius Boyd.
Bird named man of the match
In the final minutes of the game the Blues defence stood tall just as it had at the beginning of the match to keep New South Wales in the series.
Blues second rower Greg Bird who had bruised Queensland with punishing defence was named man of the match.
Maroons skipper Cameron Smith said mistakes had cost his side a game it should have won.
"I thought we had more control of this game than we did in the first game in Melbourne," Smith said.
"There are a lot of positives to take out of the game but our execution wasn't up to scratch for State of Origin."
With no major controversies in the match referees Tony Archer and Ben Cummins are likely to keep their jobs for Origin III at Lang Park on July 4.
New South Wales 16 (B Stewart, J Morris tries; T Carney 2 goals) d Queensland 12 (B Hannant, G Inglis tries; J Thurston 2 goals).
Source: ABC Sport
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