TRY TIME: Dane Gagai ties up the game for Queensland.
TRY TIME: Dane Gagai ties up the game for Queensland. DAN HIMBRECHTS

How the Maroons kept Origin '17 alive

QUEENSLAND are never dead, and their win in Origin II was one of the most stirring in interstate history.

Here's where the game was won and lost.

The Maroons attempted to counter the Blues advantage in the forwards with suffocating line speed. However, they conceded two penalties for jumping the gun in the first half and after the second they did not maintain the intensity. If they thought the referees would continue their attitude from Game I, where few penalties were blown at all, they were wrong. This failed gamble cost them badly in the latter part of the first half. Once the Blues got that advantage they put on two quick tries to Brett Morris and Mitchell Pearce.

Will Chambers was moved back to his preferred spot at right centre but had an unhappy start to the night. Chambers is the best centre in rugby league and part of what makes him great is his physicality and intensity - both in attack and defence. The Blues exploited this twice. First, Chambers raced in to try to shut down an attacking raid, allowing James Tedesco to put Jarryd Hayne over. Later on, Chambers was caught at marker, which allowed James Maloney to play the short side and create a try for Morris. Chambers showed his quality in the second half though, setting up a try for Dane Gagai with a clever offload.

As ever, it was that legendary Queensland spine that did the job. The injection of Billy Slater gave the side an extra edge on their patented sweep plays. Slater can threaten the line with far more speed than Darius Boyd despite Boyd's undoubted quality. After a solid first stint, Josh McGuire was magnificent in the second half and was ably supported by Josh Papalii and Dylan Napa, who also turned things around after a forgettable first run.

Mitchell Pearce spent the first half feeding his outside man, backing up well through the middle and making sure the Blues stayed focused on their key mission, which was attacking through the middle with power and speed. He wasn't Andrew Johns incarnate, but he didn't need to be - he did his job and played his part, and that's exactly what the Blues needed him to do. But he vanished in the second. His kicking game, so long his Achilles heel at this level, was again below par. More than once in the second half he gave the Maroons needless seven-tackle sets. And finally, when the Blues got the short kick-off and had a chance to win the game he could conjure nothing. He did not lose the game, but he didn't win it either and that is the halfback's job.

Andrew Fifita was the dominant Blues forward in Game I and while he was strong on Wednesday night he didn't have the same impact. But it didn't matter because Aaron Woods had it right last week when he outlined the true danger of the Blues forwards - they have so many weapons. This time it was Jake Trbojevic who did the damage with a number of powerful runs off the bench and a classy inside ball to Tedesco that led to Pearce's try, and David Klemmer, who helped push the Blues over the top when he came on.

Johnathan Thurston's shoulder was clearly still troubling him. He grabbed at it nearly every time he got involved. But the most puzzling aspect of the Queensland playmakers was their sideways play and lack of polish with their kicking. Between Thurston, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk one would think the Maroons would have the clear ascendancy in the kicking department but the legendary trio just couldn't get it right. On a night where their margin for error was so small, it almost cost them dearly.

This was truly one of Thurston's greatest performances. Perhaps it was not his most spectacular, or most clinical, but for toughness and courage under fire this one can't be touched. Sometimes we become so accustomed to Thurston's greatness we can take it for granted, but to guts out 80 minutes with a shoulder that was clearly troubling him on every touch and to convert, from out wide, with the game on the line was one of the great plays of his career.



Billy Slater: 7

Valentine Holmes: 5.5

Will Chambers: 8

Darius Boyd: 6

Dane Gagai: 8.5

Johnathan Thurston: 7.5

Cooper Cronk: 7

Dylan Napa: 7.5

Cameron Smith: 7

Jarrod Wallace: 5

Gavin Cooper: 7

Matt Gillett: 8

Josh McGuire: 8.5


Michael Morgan: 7

Josh Papalii: 6

Coen Hess: 4

Tim Glasby: 6


James Tedesco: 7.5

Blake Ferguson: 7

Josh Dugan: 7.5

Jarryd Hayne: 6

Brett Morris: 7

James Maloney: 7.5

Mitchell Pearce: 7

Aaron Woods: 7.5

Nathan Peats: 7

Andrew Fifita: 5.5

Josh Jackson: 8

Boyd Cordner: 7.5

Tyson Frizell: 6.5


David Klemmer: 8.5

Wade Graham: 5

Jake Trbojevic: 8.5

Jack Bird: 3

- with Barry Toohey

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