Johnathan Thurston inspired Queensland to a 28-24 victory in the opening match of Australia's State of Origin series against New South Wales in Sydney yesterday. The Maroons, bidding for an unprecedented fifth Origin series victory, had control for much of the match before 68,753 fans at the Olympic Stadium, building up a 28-14 advantage until two late tries by NSW reduced the final margin.
Man-of-the-match Thurston, the Australia half-back, was in outstanding form and had a hand in all of Queensland's five tries as well as kicking four conversions. The Maroons, fielding a near-Test-strength backline, have now won nine of the last 13 Origin matches and have not lost an inter-state series since 2005. "We were slow out of the blocks but got some good tries in the end," Thurston said. "It's the Queensland way - it's our never-give-up attitude, this team's got a special bond. They keep writing us off with no [Cameron] Smith, [Steve] Price, [Ben] Hannant. We love it."
Darius Boyd, Billy Slater, Darren Lockyer, Greg Inglis and Sam Thaiday touched down for Queensland while NSW scored four tries of their own through Jarryd Hayne, Anthony Watmough, Jamal Idris and Ben Creagh with Jamie Lyon, the stand-off, landing four goals. The Blues began the stronger of the two sides and grabbed the first try of the match when Hayne touched down after opposing winger Boyd spilt a high kick in the wet conditions in the eighth minute.
But Queensland gradually gained control through the skill of Thurston. It was his lobbed pass that put Boyd in seven minutes later and he converted the try to level the scores. Lyon edged NSW ahead 8-6 with a penalty before some more Thurston magic conjured a try for Slater, the full-back. The half-back kicked deftly off the outside of his boot and Slater charged through to claim the ball and score four minutes before half-time.
Queensland dominated the second half with Lockyer scoring after early lead-up work from Thurston, before Inglis and Thaiday also got on the try-sheet after more influential play from the mercurial Thurston. NSW narrowed the gap when Idris, who was making his Origin debut at centre, powered over the line in the 73rd minute and then Creagh, the second rower, won the chase for a kick for a try in the final minute. Queensland can wrap up the best of three series in the second game, in Brisbane on June 16. * AFP