Blues the team beat in State of Origin decider
NSW coach Laurie Daley is hoping to repeat his 1994 Origin journey as a player after his brave Blues set up a tantalising series' third game decider at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium next month.
The series is now locked at 1-1 after NSW finished over the top of Queensland in front of Origin's biggest ever crowd of 90,513 at the MCG last night.
Queensland won game one in Sydney 11-10 last month.
Daley travelled this same road 21 years ago as a member of the NSW side which lost the opening game of the series 16-12 in Sydney before levelling the series 14-0 in the first Origin ever played at the MCG in 1994.
The Phil Gould coached Blues then travelled to Brisbane where Daley scored a try in the 27-12 win in front of a hostile Lang Park crowd that clinched the series.
Daley's new breed of young forwards led superbly by courageous skipper Paul Gallen, beat Queensland at their own game finishing the 80 minutes strongly with late tries to prop Aaron Woods and fullback Josh Dugan.
"We didn't play as well as we wanted to in game one and we knew we had knuckle down to the task in this game," said Daley after the eight point win.
"But we know we can be a lot better.
"It sets up an exciting clash in Brisbane in a fast track which will allow us to play some football."
Daley said the Blues' team doctor Nathan Gibbs felt Gallen, who "just popped something", would be right for Origin III in three weeks but he won't play for the Sharks before then.
"He means a lot to this team."
Gallen left the field midway through to first half to have a pain killing injection and showed tremendous courage to come back to the battle and play the game out.
"We will give him every chance to play in Brisbane, he deserves that," said Daley.
The challenge now for Queensland, who had won eight straight series before NSW broke through last year, is to match the Blues's energy and run which clearly trouble them
Both teams had crucial second half tries disallowed within the space of a few minutes.
Queensland believe centre Greg Inglis was denied his 17th Origin try after he sprinted 80 metres to touch down but in the end NSW stuck to their game plan better than Queensland.
The Maroons missed the cool head and directness of halfback Cooper Cronk, just as they did in the second game last year when he was out injured.
His stand-in, Daly Cherry-Evans, again failed to convince some critics he is anything more than a very good NRL club player for Manly, too often running across field confusing his team-mates.
Cronk also has a special telepathy with his Storm team-mates Cameron Smith and Billy Slater and coach Mal Meninga will be hoping he recovers from a knee injury which required minor surgery early last month.
Queensland centre Justin Hodges was charged by the special Origin match review committee with a grade one high tackle on NSW rival Ryan Hoffman in the first half which forced the Warriors forward from the field for concussion testing.
However with an early guilty plea his points drop from 75 to 56 meaning he would be free to play for Brisbane against Melbourne at the weekend.
Given his hamstring history though, it's highly unlikely coach Wayne Bennett will ask his veteran to back up against the Storm at AAMI Park on Sunday.