Darren Lockyer’s Queensland team-mates ensured their retiring skipper
got his fairytale farewell as the Maroons collected a sixth-straight
State of Origin series with a 34-24 win at Suncorp Stadium.
his record 36th and last appearance in the maroon, Lockyer was outshone
by his brilliant teammates as they ran in six tries to NSW’s four, with
Greg Inglis collecting a double including the clincher 11 minutes from
Billy Slater, Petero Civoniceva and man-of-the-match and
series Cameron Smith also starred as Queensland clinched their first
series-decider at their spiritual home in 20 years.
But while he
wasn’t the star, this was undoubtedly Lockyer’s night, his teammates
racing to embrace the champion five-eighth on the stroke of fulltime,
Johnathan Thurston joining the celebrations in a wheelchair after
suffering a suspected season-ending knee injury.
For all the dominance of Queensland’s five-year reign as Origin champions, never have they produced an opening like this.
on by a record equalling 52,498 crowd, the Maroons refused to let the
Blues into the game, ferocious running backed up a precise kicking game
which forced NSW five-eighth Jamie Soward to come up with five line drop
outs over the opening quarter of the game.
What was amazing was
that the home side had only one try to their name over the period,
Inglis touching down after a deft Johnathan Thurston kick.
had provided the offload to instigate the opening four-pointer, and he
produced the final pass for the second – Sam Thaiday almost running out
of the stadium as he charged over.
Embarrassed by Blues skipper
Paul Gallen in Sydney, Civoniceva and Matt Scott replied in kind and
then some, Civoniceva in what could well be his final Origin appearance
running for 125 metres in the opening 25 minutes.
For a moment it
looked like Lockyer would grab his moment in the sun as he set off
downfield, but he had to settle for providing the impetus for Smith to
crash over from dummy half two plays later.
By the time a Lockyer
kick ricocheted off the legs of Minichiello into the path of Jharal Yow
Yeh to make it 24-0 on 33 minutes – even the most ardent of Blues
supporters were fearing the worst.
“It’s like watching a game of tennis where one player forgot his racquet,” former Blues coach Phil Gould quipped.
It seemed NSW weren’t concerned with trying to mount a counter attack but rather just finding some way to stop the bleeding.
of nowhere, the Blues grasped hold of a band-aid, a fluffed Soward kick
fumbled by four different Maroons before Luke Lewis picked up the
scraps to send Minichiello over for a confidence-boosting try.
their arm, the Blues found another on the stroke of halftime when Mark
Gasnier got on the outside of Thurston to send Akuila Uate in for his
first Origin four-pointer.
Soward then missed a relatively easy attempt at goal which would have brought NSW to within two converted tries at halftime.
Blues coach Ricky Stuart would have been delighted with a 14-point
deficit considering what could have been, and he would have been even
more joyous with the way his side opened the second as the Maroons
uncharacteristically started falling off tackles.
NSW couldn’t come up with the crucial final play, and not even Thurston being taken off on the medicab helped.
it was the home side who iced the game, a beautifully worked play
between Lockyer and Thaiday sent Slater over before Inglis kick-started
the party with his second.
Jarryd Hayne collected a consolation
prize with an eight-point try which landed Smith on report for coming in
late with his knees, before Greg Bird got another just before fulltime.