Queensland beats New South Wales 18-16 in State of Origin
SYDNEY (AP) — Winger Dane Gagai's second try of the match in the 77th minute capped a stirring second-half Queensland comeback as the Maroons beat New South Wales 18-16 to level the three-match State of Origin rugby league series 1-1 on Wednesday.
Five-eighth Johnathan Thurston, returning from a shoulder injury, kicked the winning points with a conversion from near the sideline after Queensland trailed 16-6 at halftime before a sellout crowd of 82,259 at the Olympic Stadium.
The third match is scheduled for July 12 in Brisbane, when a Queensland win could give the state its 11th series victory in 12 years. New South Wales won the opening match 28-4.
Former San Francisco 49ers running back Jarryd Hayne scored his 11th career Origin try for New South Wales in the 14th minute after Valentine Holmes, playing his first Origin match, gave Queensland the lead with a sixth-minute try and Thurston converted.
Brett Morris and Mitchell Pearce scored tries three minutes apart in the first half to give New South Wales its 10-point halftime lead.
Gagai's first try in the 53rd minute started the Queensland comeback and his second with three minutes remaining off a flick pass from Michael Morgan leveled the match before Thurston's winning goal.
"We're over the moon ... we were behind the eight ball at halftime, but we got the job done at the end," said Thurston, who plans to retire from representative football after this season. "We have great self-belief, and we never give up. That was evident tonight."
New South Wales fullback Josh Dugan said his side "put the cue back in the rack" in the second half.
"I think we went away from our footy," Dugan said. "We just tried to defend our lead. It's a series now and we have to go up there (to Brisbane) and do a job."
Veteran Queensland fullback Billy Slater, who was not selected to play in the opening match, said the Maroons were patient despite trailing after 40 minutes.
"We were pretty composed at halftime," Slater said. "We knew if we started well, held the ball, we'd get our opportunity."