Tough, dogged affair sees Queensland clinch State of Origin series

Dane Gagai

In a game that had everything from big hits, to tries, to entertainment and to controversy, it was ultimately the Queensland Maroons who came out smiling, clinching yet another series win.

Although they may not get to celebrate it in full until the completion of Game 3, the Queensland side stayed true and strong throughout the game and were too good for New South Wales.

Despite the solid performances on debut from Tyson Frizell and Jack Bird, the Queensland side had too much fire-power, causing issues down the left edge of the Blues defensive line.

Whilst NSW never gave in and fought hard, inopportune errors and poor decisions cost them, as they continued to let Queensland take charge and assert dominance.

Buoyed by news that veteran Corey Parker was retiring at season’s end, the Maroons dug deep. Known for their resiliency over the last decade, the game was a tense affair throughout with the Maroons then gaining the upper hand.

The game started as a bit of a penalty-a-thon, with both teams trading penalty goals before NSW went ahead 4-2 with a second one.

Not keen to simply go with the flow, the NSW attack took it to Queensland and opted to run the ball with intent and desire, even on the last tackle at times.

The first try came out of opportunity for the Maroons, after a Michael Jennings offload went astray and Dane Gagai raced 90m downfield to open the scoring.

A brave chase from debutant Frizell had NSW fans cheering but it was in vain, as Gagai slid over the line to score the first try of the game.

The Blues had chances of their own and could have taken the lead at one point, but Michael Jennings was ruled to have knocked on in the lead-up to the try.

In the end, it was the Maroons who ran out eventual 26-16 winners to assert their dominance over the fixture.

Missing a wealth of experience, Queensland coach Kevin Walters praised his side for the way they stepped up and praised the work of their leaders.

“What a lot of people do need to get their head around is how much experience we’ve lost this year,” Walters said.

“There’s no Billy Slater, no Nate Myles, no Justin Hodges and no Will Chambers. Three of them have nearly 100 Origin games between them.

“The leadership of the group to bring these younger players in is brilliant.

“Greg Inglis looks after Corey Oates, Matt Gillett and Cooper Cronk have looked after Justin O’Neill and Dane Gagai.

“Dane only just played his third Origin game. The leadership of this group is something that is very special.”

As they get older, that does not deter the Maroons, with captain Cam Smith confident that they can continue to perform over coming years.

“I’m extremely confident that the young players coming through can keep this winning culture moving forward,” Smith said.

“We’ve got some quality young players in our side at the moment. Aidan Guerra, Gillett, O’Neill, Oates, Gagai and Josh Papalii.

“Papalii was outstanding tonight because he gave us so much go forward. The team is in good hands.

NSW coach Laurie Daley explained the reasoning behind starting debutant Frizell and praised his efforts.

“I thought he was great,” said Daley.

“The idea behind starting Tyson was twofold. Young guy, plenty of energy, I didn’t want him sitting on the bench thinking too much about it and the other one was that I needed someone with a bit of experience (Greg Bird) to start the second half.”

Fellow debutant Jack Bird says his main aim was simply to do his family and his state proud.

“I watched it at home and I could see how crazy the crowds are and when I ran out there I got goosebumps,” Bird said.

“I went out there to do my family proud, obviously myself proud and hopefully I did that.

“It was nothing that I didn’t expect, I knew it was going to be a crazy game, a fast game, a lot different to NRL standard, but I really enjoyed every minute.

Player of the Game:

3. Dane Gagai
2. Tyson Frizell
1. Johnathan Thurston

Queensland Maroons 26 (Dane Gagai 3, Corey Oates tries; Johnathan Thurston 5 goals) def. New South Wales Blues 16 (Tyson Frizell, James Maloney tries; Adam Reynolds 3, Maloney goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Crowd: 52,293. Half-time: Queensland 10-4. On report: Sam Thaiday (Maroons, lifting tackle). Under-18s: NSW 26 def. Queensland 0.

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