LAURIE DALEY showed what New South Wales will miss next season when he led the Blues to a series-leveling win over Queensland in their State of Origin match yesterday.
Daley, who has announced he will retire from Origin rugby league after this season, scored the decisive try late in the first half. The Blues protected a 12-8 half-time lead with no scoring in the second half.
Daley, playing his final Origin match in Sydney, also had more than 30 tackles including a try-saving effort on Gorden Tallis in the second half. "I've had so many great times in State of Origin and it's been a pleasure to play in it," Daley said. "I'm just bloody proud."
A crowd of 88,336 braved heavy rain to watch New South Wales tie the three-game series at Stadium Australia, the main arena for next year's Sydney Olympics. New South Wales scored after just 42 seconds when the Melbourne full-back Robbie Ross capped an 80-metre move with a try, and Ryan Girdler kicked the Blues to a 6-0 lead.
Mat Rogers, whose late drop goal gave Queensland a 9-8 win in the opening match two weeks ago, kicked an easy penalty on 18 minutes after the Blues were caught offside in defence. Rogers then added a try and a conversion seven minutes later to edge the Maroons ahead 8-6. Ross missed a tackle on Jason Smith, who was able to send Rogers across in the corner.
Daley put the Blues back in front on 34 minutes when he ran straight on to a well-timed pass from Andrew Johns and powered through. Girdler's conversion gave the Blues a 12-8 lead at the break.
The teams engaged in end-to-end attack in the second half but were unable to break through.
Matt Geyer crossed on 73 minutes but the referee, Steve Clark, called play back for a forward pass.
"The conditions suited our big forwards and what a great game it was," said the Blues prop Mark Carroll. "We're up there [Queensland] again in two weeks and we'll give it to them again."
The third match will be played in Queensland in a fortnight's time.
New South Wales: Tries Ross, Daley; Goals Girdler 2.
Queensland: Try Rogers; Goals Rogers 2.
New South Wales: Ross; MacDougall, Girdler, Hill, Geyer; Daley, Johns; Carroll, Toovey, Howe, Kosef, Fletcher, Fittler (capt). Substitutes used: Ricketson, Vella, Kennedy, Mundine.
Queensland: O'Davis; Rogers, Sing, D Smith, Sailor; Walters (capt), Green; Webcke, Hetherington, Greenhill, Tallis, McKenna, J Smith. Substitutes used: Ikin,Price, Carroll, Lang.
Referee: S Clarke.
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