Never have two words been so fitting to describe the dawn of a new era, but the end is what it was on Wednesday night. It was the end of a reign of supremacy rugby league may never again witness. It was the end of NSW’s misery.
It was also the end of NSW’s search for a No.7, with Trent Hodkinson answering the calls for a saviour, scoring the series winning try and goal to send ANZ Stadium into raptures following a memorable 6-4 win. He ran once in game one. And for 71 minutes in game two, he’d again only challenged the line on one occasion.
But it was a case of third time lucky for the rugged Bulldogs playmaker, dummying his way past Ben Te’o and Daly Cherry-Evans to take his place in Origin folklore. Hodkinson then showed nerves of steel to slot the conversion to give NSW a long awaited series victory.
”It’s been a long time we fought hard,” said Jarryd Hayne, who ran the ball dead and jumped into the crowd to celebrate at the end.
”We have been through that much these years and come so close so many times. We had to go to another level every game. This is a team, 1-17. This is what Origin is about.”
For the first time since July 6, 2005, the state of NSW can finally wallow in the misery of those north of the border. It was the script to what Queensland fairytales are made of.
Injuries, uncertainty and the underdog tag. The very concoction that has fuelled so many backs-against-the-wall type victories for the Maroons over the past three decades.
The Blues, bound together by heartache and tragedy – undertook a mission that 70 players that donned the sky blue before them over eight and a bit years have failed to accomplish. Having won their first game at Suncorp Stadium in five years just three weeks ago, the Blues found themselves in an all too familiar predicament.
NSW led the series 1-0 last year only to get their pants pulled down in game two and eventually lost another series following a loss on home soil in the decider.
But this time was different. This time they had a chance to win the series in front of 83,421 success-starved New South Welshman.
This time there was no Cooper Cronk, no Corey Parker. This time Billy Slater, Greg Inglis and Daly Cherry-Evans were all walking wounded. Just as the Morris twins did in game one, Will Hopoate brushed aside an arm injury to play on through the pain barrier to finish the match.
It was a penalty against Greg Bird in the ruck gave the Maroons first points of the match after 14 minutes courtesy of a penalty goal to Thurston. It was a forearm to the head of Nate Myles from James Tamou that gifted Thurston another two points in the 30th minute, surpassing Mal Meninga’s record of 161 for most points in Origin history.
Trailing 4-0 at half time, the Blues would’ve been ordered to lift the tempo, but on the first hit up of the second half, Anthony Watmough dumped Myles on his head with a tackle that could see him miss Origin III.
The Maroons looked to have doubled their lead when Sam Thaiday burrowed his way over from close range, however the hand of Hayne knocked the ball free in the nick of time to deny the Queensland lock. Queensland then suffered a huge setback with Brent Tate leaving the field with a leg injury after a tackle from Ryan Hoffman in the 57th minute, forcing a reshuffle with Chris McQueen moving to the right wing.
NSW 6 (T Hodkinson try T Hodkinson goal) bt QUEENSLAND 4 (J Thurston 2 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Referee: Shayne Hayne, Ben Cummins. Crowd: 83,421