Origin is defined by its rituals – so much so that you would be forgiven forgetting that there’s a game under all the posturing and the pageantry.
Prior to kick-off, fireworks fired, assorted legends mingled awkwardly in suits and the hallowed ritual of talking up the Blues’ chances was dutifully observed. A titanic contest was predicted – it is Origin, after all – but no-one truly expected the classic that followed.
Queensland had the crowd and a truly impressive recent home record in their favour, and they started the match in ominous fashion. The old Cronk/Smith telepathy saw the Maroons threatening with every set, and soon enough, Darius Boyd had crossed in the corner, direct from a scrum.
Suddenly, the game settled into a rhythm – and that rhythm was a Jarryd Hayne drum solo.
After 10 minutes, though, Cronk was forced off with a broken arm – or ‘troublesome arm’, as Ray Warren described it. His replacement, the in-form Daly Cherry-Evans, was thrust into the action.
Suddenly, the game settled into a rhythm – and that rhythm was a Jarryd Hayne drum solo. Hayne was everywhere, defusing bombs on his own try line, scoring an improbable try and inducing panic in Queensland’s defensive line whenever he touched the ball.
New South Wales scored through Brett Morris, who gave his shoulder “a bit of a dislocation” (his words) in the act of touching down, before Hayne added an improbable try of his own. Trent Hodkinson, christened by Warren as “the Robin Hood of accuracy”, missed both conversions (thanks Ray), but it didn’t look like it would matter, such was their dominance.
The Blues were playing like they actually believed in themselves, while Queensland looked disjointed and reactive, unable to get their weapons firing. Greg Inglis languished at the periphery of the contest, and the whole team was playing like they had slept through their alarms.
Queensland tend to do that, though: they start off slowly, all the better to snatch a demoralising last-gasp victory.
The Maroons were a different side in the second half: Cherry-Evans found his groove, Billy Slater started gaining some serious metres, and Jonathan Thurston got busy near the Blues’ defensive line.
In the past it’s always been the opposition they talk about, well they should now talk about us.
They pulled it back to 12–8 when Boyd completed his double with a typically composed finish in the corner, and Queensland were headed for the finish with the wettest of sails.
New South Wales spent the better part of the final 20 minutes pinned back in their defensive half, repelling wave after wave of attack. A breach seemed inevitable, but when Morris, dislocated shoulder and all, was able to prevent Boyd from touching down after again crossing in the corner, it seemed that even cruel fate had switched allegiances after eight years in the red camp.
It almost fell apart when Billy Slater forced a dubious knock on decision in the final minute, but the Blues held on for what coach Laurie Daley described as “one of New South Wales’ finest performances”.
“In the past it’s always been the opposition they talk about, well they should now talk about us,” Daley said. “We had a truckload of injuries. Blokes who should have come off in the first half but stayed out there because we needed them to. Origin is about hanging tough … that performance under duress is as good as I have been associated with. It was an A grade performance.”
Daley said four of his players – skipper Paul Gallen, the Morris twins and Anthony Watmough – should not have been on Suncorp Stadium after receiving injuries that could sideline them in coming weeks.
A vintage performance from the mercurial Hayne might have put the New South Wales in the lead, but it took a team effort of rare tenacity for them to retain it. As skipper Gallen put it: “They revved up on us, but we held on.”
Say it quietly, but it looks like the Blues have awoken.