SYDNEY, July 13, (AFP): Centre Michael Jennings scored with two minutes to go to give New South Wales a thrilling 18-14 win over Queensland in the third State of Origin rugby league match on Wednesday.
The win gave the NSW Blues some consolation after Queensland won the opening two games of the three-match series and sent retiring captain Paul Gallen out on a high note.
“We tried hard – our effort’s been outstanding but it’s just that our execution hasn’t been there in the first two games,” Gallen said.
“Thankfully we did it tonight.
“We’re playing a great side. Things could have been different if we’d had one or two things go our way in the first two games, but it wasn’t to be.”
Despite the match being a dead rubber, more than 61,000 fans turned up at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium to cheer on the Blues, who lost the opening two matches 6-4 and 22-16.
Those two wins gave the Maroons their 10th win in the past 11 series.
The Queenslanders started where they left off in game two when centre Greg Inglis crashed over in just the fifth minute.
But NSW soon began to take control and dominated possession and territory.
They hit the front when Tyson Frizell steamed onto a Gallen pass and touched down close to the posts with James Maloney converting for a 6-4 lead.
The Blues continued to throw everything at Queensland but the Maroons held them out until halftime thanks to some desperate defence.
But two minutes after the restart the Blues were in again, Andrew Fifita chasing a kick ahead and beating the Queensland defence to score.
Maloney’s conversion made it 12-4 and the increasingly tired looking Queenslanders looked down for the count.
However, they struck back when Gavin Cooper scored on debut then incredibly hit the front with only six minutes to go when NSW winger Josh Mansour slipped while attempting to gather in a high ball right on his tryline and Darius Boyd was on hand to score.
But in a thrilling finish New South Wales raced the length of the field as the clock wound down and, although fullback James Tedeschi was pulled down centimetres from the line, the Blues moved the ball quickly and Jennings outpaced the defence to score the winning try.
Queensland’s Corey Parker, who also retires from Origin football after the match, gave credit to the Blues.
“They really put some pressure on us in the first half and I think we did exceptionally well to hold on,” he said.
“We got ourselves back in front but they’re a great side and they held in there until the death.”