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Maroons win Origin series opener

03/06/2009 11:29:57 PM Comments (0)

It was far from perfect but Mal Meninga's Queensland Maroons are now just one win away from rugby league immortality.

The Maroons survived a thrilling fightback by NSW to claim a 28-18 victory in the opening State of Origin clash at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night to be on the brink of a record fourth successive series title.

Led by two tries to centre Greg Inglis and a flawless game from man of the match Johnathan Thurston, the Maroons secured a five-tries-to-three victory in front of 50,967 fans to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.

The Maroons led 24-6 after 43 minutes and appeared to have the match in their control, but two fortuitous tries to the Blues ensured a tense finish to an enthralling football game.

Queensland skipper Darren Lockyer missed a field goal attempt in the 75th minute but it didn't matter as the Blues couldn't conjure the try they needed to level the game before winger Darius Boyd rammed home the win with a try on the siren.

Queensland will now head to Sydney's ANZ Stadium on June 24 for the chance to secure the series and become the first team in 30 years of State of Origin to win four straight titles.

"We just couldn't throw the killer punch," said Lockyer.

"In the second half there a couple of deflections didn't go our way and put them back in the game and in the end we hung on.

"At 24-6 we just needed the next points and we were home."

Meninga praised the exceptional talent in his side and admitted his men were now in the box seat to become the greatest Origin team in history.

"It was not a perfect performance by us but we just won the footy game," said Meninga.

"That's step one, two to go."

NSW started exceptionally well but things turned sour after Jarryd Hayne was denied a sensational try in the eighth minute when the video referees deemed his left foot brushed the touchline as he danced 40m down the field to score.

NSW coach Craig Bellamy slammed the decision as a major turning point but conceded his young side failed to respond to the mental setback as the next eight minutes brought three Maroon tries.

Billy Slater opened the scoring in the 10th minute from a Cameron Smith grubber, followed by Inglis (15th) and Thurston (18th minute) to give Queensland an 18-2 lead.

But NSW, fielding seven rookies, clawed their way back into the contest with a try to debutant Ben Creagh to trail 18-6 at halftime.

A "soft" 75m try to Inglis three minutes after the break virtually put the game to bed until the injection of livewire Craig Wing.

The Blues utility sparked some life back into NSW only seconds after coming on in the 56th minute, scoring after Luke Lewis collected a deflection from Peter Wallace's kick.

Luck again favoured the Blues in the 68th minute when Robbie Farah collected a charge down from his own kick to put Hayne across and reduce the deficit to six points with 10 minutes to play.

The Blues had all the running and continually threatened but a couple crucial errors to skipper Kurt Gidley at fullback cruelled any chance for NSW.

"It was a pretty soft try after halftime and it could have got ugly," said Bellamy.

"To their credit they just kept trying and we nearly got back into the game.

"Hopefully we have started an era now that this side is not going to give up."

Bellamy refused to blame Gidley for his mistakes, but the skipper was devastated.

"Bit embarrassed. Unfortunately there was a couple of errors from myself which is a little disappointing," said Gidley.

The only negative for Queensland was the loss of centre Justin Hodges to a medial ligament injury in his right knee that could rule him out for the rest of the Origin series.

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