Queensland keep series alive with drama-filled 26-6 win
QUEENSLAND'S dream of eight consecutive State of Origin series wins is still alive after a drama-packed 26-6 win over New South Wales at Suncorp Stadium.
The victory gives the Maroons the chance to emulate the results from 2006 and 2008 when the Blues took game one at home, but lost the series 2-1.
Anyone who wondered whether the league's crackdown on throwing punches would extend to the Origin cauldron had that question answered in the second half when the game was reduced to 11-a-side with four players given 10 minutes each in the sin bin.
Blues pair Greg Bird and Trent Merrin were despatched for throwing punches, which is now a complete no-no, and Queenslanders Justin Hodges and Brent Tate also had some time ot for their involvement.
NSW paid the highest penalty, however, with star Maroons centre Greg Inglis making the most of a depleted defensive line to score his 15th Origin try and extened the margin to 24 points in the 55th minute.
The victory had been orchestrated by a brilliant first half from Queensland.
Just as New South Wales had set up its win in Origin I on the back of a dominant start, this time it was Queensland who made the early running, jumping out to a 14-0 lead after just 17 minutes.
Playmakers Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk all started with much more purpose, consistently challenging the Blues line. It was Cronk who put Sam Thaiday over in just the second minute on the back of a penalty.
Thurston made it 8-0 after another penalty, before a third penalty for a late tackle on the Queensland five-eighth resulted in Corey Parker being held up over the line.
Parker was outstanding in the early exchanges, continually taking the ball over the advantage line and justifying the decision by coach Mal Meninga to bring him into the starting line-up in place of Ashley Harrison.
Thaiday was also a constant threat and Nate Myles, switched from second-row to prop in place of David Shillington after game one, also made plenty of metres to allow the smaller men to create opportunities.
Queensland's second try came in the 17th minute when Blues debutant Nathan Merritt paid the price for being too eager to shut down Maroons danger man Greg Inglis, rushing up in defence and allowing Thurston to find Merritt's opposite number Darius Boyd clear in the corner.
The visitors clearly had to score first after the break, but in a carbon copy of the second try in the first half, Thurston again made Merritt pay for trying to shut down Inglis instead of concentrating on his own man.
That allowed Boyd to slide over in the corner in the 48th minute to set up what was a match-winning lead.
NSW grabbed a late consolation try to Brett Morris, but coach Laurie Daley will clearly need to make some changes ahead of the decider.
Fullback Jarryd Hayne should be back from a hamstring problem and will come in for Josh Dugan who made plenty of mistakes and posed little threat in his return to the top level.
The Blues forwards were also well beaten, newcomer Aaron Woods making just 38m in his debut.
Queensland 26 (D Boyd 2, S Thiaday, G Inglis tries; J Thurston 5 goals) d New South Wales 6 (B Morris try; J Maloney goal)