New South Wales have levelled this year’s State of Origin series with a thrilling 26-18 victory against Queensland at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in front of an Origin record 91,513 spectators.
The Blues took the lead when Michael Jennings raced through the Queensland defence to break the deadlock, before Matt Scott levelled up for the Maroons with a barnstorming run under the posts. Both tries were converted, and it was 6-6 after the first quarter.
A traditional Origin flare-up saw both sides get physical after 22 minutes when Billy Slater and James Tamou clashed, before the Blues again took the lead soon after, when Josh Morris claimed a high kick to touch down, with Trent Hodkinson again converting for 12-6.
However, Greg Inglis bounced back for the Maroons with yet another Origin try, although Johnathan Thurston was off target with the conversion attempt.
Hodkinson then added a penalty goal on the break for 14-10.
The Maroons were the first to score in the second half when Matt Gillett scored a try under the posts after successive sets on the NSW line and Thurston’s goal gave Queensland a two-point lead.
And Thurston extended the lead to four points when he kicked a penalty goal
But the game turned on 62 minutes when Aaron Woods scored under the posts for NSW, with Hodkinson’s goal putting Queensland ahead 20-18.
Michell Pearce the had a try controversially disallowed for a forward pass, and then Queensland suffered the same fate when Greg Inglis picked up a loose ball and ran the length of the field, but he was brought back for a knock-on from Michael Morgan.
Josh Dugan clinched the game with a try on 70 minutes, and Hodkinson’s goal put NSW 26-18 ahead.
Queensland have often rescued games in the final minutes, but this time the Blues were able to hold them out.
The sides will now go into the decider in three weeks’ time in Brisbane with all to play for.