Stuart can't measure Qld passion - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Stuart can't measure Qld passion

Laine Clark 25/05/2011 10:33:16 PM Comments (0)

Months of planning by NSW coach Ricky Stuart went into rugby league's State of Origin opener at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night.

But the key to the late burst which sparked the Maroons' remarkable 16-12 Origin I win could not be measured on the reams of stats or footage Stuart had produced.

Yet it was something that had been glaringly obvious in any Queensland side since Origin's inception - passion.

Never had so much been invested into a NSW Origin campaign ahead of Wednesday night.

As NSW's first full time coach, Stuart tackled the task with trademark passion and came up with a plan.

Call it his "Blues" print for success.

He left no stone unturned, with a support staff that outnumbered the players - a 38-strong squad was counted at an Origin lunch in Brisbane this week.

He provided an extensive dossier to his players on Queensland and brought in the best in the business to help implement it, including Blues' great Andrew Johns.

But Queensland proved what even the most passionate Blues supporter feared.

Even if you know what the Maroons are going to do, it is another thing entirely to stop it.

Especially when the "Queenslander" chant resounds around a 52,144-strong Suncorp Stadium crowd as it did in the dying minutes on Wednesday night.

Still, Stuart would have been tempted to give his game plan a big tick, as NSW bravely fought back from 10-0 down to snatch a two-point lead in the 69th minute with two tries in four minutes.

In a brilliantly-executed set piece, bruising backrower Greg Bird cut through the Maroons' defence and sent halfback Mitchell Pearce over in the 65th minute.

And in another set play, centre Michael Jennings flew down the left flank to cross as the NSW faithful started to believe.

Indeed Jennings was just one of Stuart's contentious NSW selections who suddenly looked like masterstrokes.

Jennings had not scored a try this NRL season for Penrith but looked dangerous all night.

Rookie Jamie Soward - a player even Stuart did not think was up to Origin last year - was solid, though his kicking game was found lacking.

And rookie fullback Josh Dugan - who controversially leapfrogged Jarryd Hayne - looked right at home in the No.1 jersey.

Yet Queensland found a way.

And who else but that man Darren Lockyer to spark them?

Emotion was always going to run high in the retiring Queensland skipper's final Origin year, especially with a sixth straight series win on offer.

And nothing could prepare for the hysteria that followed when Lockyer set up Billy Slater in the 73rd minute, as NSW were hit by that all too familiar sinking feeling.

Stuart was the coach of the last NSW side to win an Origin series - way back in 2005, his only year at the helm.

And while he will not be heading back to the drawing board after the four-point loss, he will be forgiven for getting writer's block when he sits down for his match two winning game plan.

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