Passion, commitment and the Cauldron. All the elements Queensland needed to square up the 2008 State of Origin series. In winning tonight, the Maroons put on a record-equalling 30-0 score line to run riot over a New South Wales side all lost at sea.
The Maroons made up in spades for the absence of the major ingredients for success in Sydney three weeks ago to gain revenge at a sell-out Suncorp Stadium.
From the moment lightweight lock Dallas Johnson picked up and drove back NSW prop Craig Fitzgibbon in one of the opening exchanges it was clear this was a far different Queensland team from that which barely turned up in game one.
The meek Maroons start at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium, where the Blues dominated for a 18-10 victory, was a world away when fullback Karmichael Hunt dived for a NSW kick and threw himself back at the defensive line, desperate to make every inch he could.
With rookie winger Darius Boyd scoring a double on debut in the first 21 minutes while the Maroons forwards dominated up front, it seemed the clash was a carbon copy from game one, only the scripts were left under different doors.
This time NSW struggled for every metre in attack, had no help from referee Tony Archer, watched a rival rookie winger score twice on debut and saw their opponents jump to a 14-0 lead in the first 30 minutes.
Their handling was also poor, struggling to complete sets of six in the second half as they attempted to mount a comeback.
Meanwhile the Maroons played it smart, maintaining possession, playing for territory and sweating on the many mistakes.
Johnathan Thurston and Greg Inglis – two Queenslanders who copped much of the opening game criticism – were inspirational as they responded brilliantly.
The pre-match talk also seemed to work in Queensland’s favour with referee Archer, baked north of the border for losing his whistle in the opener, penalising NSW in the first set of six.
The penalty count was 9-4 early in the second half as Thurston kicked his third penalty goal for a 18-0 lead. Soon after Archer awarded Ben Hannant a try after the video referee couldn’t decide following several replays.
The Maroons also easily won the ruck battle with skipper Cameron Smith ensuring his forwards were on the front foot.
Queensland’s changes at the selection table were also pivotal.
While halfback Scott Prince was off-key in the first half, his presence released the pressure valve on Thurston.
The Cowboys and Test half run amok on the back of the Maroons’ forward dominance.
He orchestrated Boyd’s second try and also had Inglis sprinting for the line again before half-time by breaking tackles and off-loading.
Boyd could have had a rare hat-trick on debut by halftime if Inglis could have linked with him but few â€œnutbag rednecksâ€ – as the Queenslanders were dubbed by Willie Mason – would have cursed the Melbourne centre.
Inglis haunted Mark Gasnier – highlighted by a terrific fend in the seventh minute – in the same way the NSW superstar embarrassed Inglis in game one.
The late but half-expected fullback switch with Hunt starting instead of Billy Slater gave the home side far more thrust on their kick returns.
Hunt also continued his muscle in defence from game one, pulling off a brutal shoulder charge on a flustered Greg Bird