A tremendous second-half display by the Queensland Maroons has given them an 18-16 victory - and ultimately kept the 2017 Origin series alive - in one of the most memorable matches in recent memory.
The VB Blues led 16-6 at the break but the Maroons, led by Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater, refused to roll over.
The Maroons scored an against-the-run-of-play try midway through the second half to Dane Gagai that cut the VB Blues’ lead to four. A series of missed tackles saw the Maroons cruise downfield, with their outside backs finishing off the play.
Gagai crossed for his second – which ultimately proved to be the match-winner – on the back of his team-mates in the final minutes of the match to tie the scores at 16. The Maroons, with the game on the line, came up with clutch plays, none moreso than Thurston’s final conversion in the 79th minute to secure the result.
The VB Blues, however, were valiant in defeat with Brett Morris, Josh Jackson, Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson particularly impressive in an effort that no doubt leaves Blues fans excited by what the future holds.
Queensland scored the first try of the evening but from there it was mainly one-way traffic for the rest of the opening half, with the VB Blues continuing their attractive, aggressive and direct style of play they displayed in the first Origin of 2017.
The Maroons crossed for a try in just the ninth minute when a Johnathan Thurston-led shift to the left close to the VB Blues’ line found debutant Valentine Holmes. The Cronulla winger walked a tightrope to fling himself over the line to score the 600th try in Origin history. A blade of grass separated Holmes from the touchline, with the on-field decision unable to be overturned due to insufficient evidence by the video referee.
The VB Blues, however, wouldn’t sit still for long, refusing to let momentum swing completely in the Maroons’ favour. On the back of two penalties, the Blues shifted left, with Mitchell Pearce finding halves partner James Maloney, who linked with James Tedesco to gift Jarryd Hayne a saloon passage to the tryline. Maloney’s close-to-touch conversion squared the score at six.
Maloney turned provider just a few minutes later, following a repeat set on the back of a Mitchell Pearce grubber, pushing past Maroons debutant Tim Glasby to cut through into the backfield to link with Morris to cross the stripe.
Then it was Jake Trbojevic who turned provider next, calling for the ball for the second time in the next set of six, turning the ball inside to Tedesco who burst into the back field to pass to a flying Mitchell Pearce who cruised past Billy Slater to cross under the posts. Maloney’s conversion took the score to 16-6.
But ultimately, though, the Blues couldn’t keep Thurston and co down.
The 2017 Origin series, though, remains up for grabs.
Queensland 18 (Dane Gagai 2, Valentine Holmes tries; Johnathan Thurston 3 goals) def NSW 16 (Jarryd Hayne, Brett Morris, Mitchell Pearce tries; James Maloney 2 goals)