The NSW VB Blues are one step closer to recreating history after defeating Queensland 26-18 in front of an Origin record crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday night.
In 1994, similar to this year’s series, the VB Blues took game two after dropping game one in Sydney. That year, NSW travelled up to Queensland for game three and wrapped up the series.
Laurie Daley’s men are on the verge of repeating that feat after coming from behind to keep their Origin title defence alive.
In a match where the VB Blues led for the majority, Queensland hit the front soon after half time but were unable to hold on to their lead as the Blues prevailed in a classic Origin encounter.
It was NSW who drew first blood inside four minutes courtesy of centre Michael Jennings, who capitalised on an offload from James Tamou, before showing his speed and power to slide through Queensland’s right-edge defence and score.
NSW were running the Maroons around in the opening minutes, but despite their early dominance, Queensland drew level with their first set inside enemy territory.
Queensland’s forwards combined as Corey Parker showed off his fancy footwork close to the line before putting Matt Scott through a gap underneath the sticks.
VB Blues skipper Paul Gallen was forced off the field mid-way through the first half with a rib injury, but despite temporarily losing their courageous leader, NSW responded with a second try to take a 12-6 lead after 27 minutes.
Gallen returned to the field shortly after but the Maroons hit straight back as Queensland’s most prolific try-scorers, Billy Slater, Darius Boyd and Greg Inglis combined down the left-edge for Inglis to reduce the margin back to two-points. An uncharacteristic miss from Johnathan Thurston meant that NSW maintained their slim 12-10 lead.
A penalty goal from VB Blues halfback Trent Hodkinson pushed his side’s lead out to 14-10 as NSW took the same lead into the break as they did in game one at ANZ Stadium three weeks ago.
Much like the first installment, the VB blues were put under enormous pressure after the break as Queensland lifted their intensity and soon found themselves in front. With all the ball, the Maroons eventually broke the blue wall as Matt Gillett crossed seven minutes into the second half.
Queensland were slowly taking a stranglehold on the game as the VB Blues began to tier. However, mid-way through the second half NSW had a new hero as front-rower Aaron Woods ignited his side, bustling his way through the line to give NSW a two-point lead after Hodkinson made no mistake with the conversion from beside the posts.
Moments later the lead appeared to have changed once again when Inglis scooped a loose ball and ran 90 metres to score, but the try was denied after the ball was deemed to have been stripped out of the grasp of Mitchell Pearce’s hands.
From the ensuing set the VB Blues capitalised in the best way possible, crossing courtesy of fullback Josh Dugan to extend their lead beyond a converted try with eight minutes remaining.
The match was all but over as 91,513 passionate fans were entertained with an enthralling encounter.
New South Wales VB Blues 26 (Michael Jennings, Josh Morris, Aaron Woods, Josh Dugan tries; Trent Hodkinson 5 goals) defeated Queensland 18 (Matt Scott, Greg Inglis, Matt Gillett tries; Johnathan Thurston 3 goals). Half-time: NSW 14-10. Crowd: 91,513.