Toyota Cowboy James Tamou celebrated his first State of Origin series victory for New South Wales but two of his North Queensland teammates suffered significant injuries in game two of the 2014 series on Wednesday night.
After being part of the Blues’ losing squad for the past two seasons, it was third time lucky for Tamou who came off the interchange bench at ANZ Stadium to play his role in an edge-of-your-seat 6-4 victory by NSW.
By the time Tamou came on, the Maroons had lost his Cowboys and Australian teammate Matthew Scott to a fractured cheekbone that is expected to require surgery.
Midway through the second half, another Cowboy disappeared to the sheds – with an even more serious problem.
It is feared Brent Tate has again ruptured an ACL, an injury that would end his 2014 season if it is confirmed by scans.
First-year Origin halfback Trent Hodkinson scampered over seven minutes from full time and then kicked the winning two points to give the Blues a first series victory since 2005.
In front of a record crowd of 83,421 – the largest at the venue since the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games – Queensland led 4-0 thanks to two Johnathan Thurston penalty goals, the second of which made him the highest scorer in Origin history (162 pts) and gave the visitors a 4-0 lead at half time.
Queensland had looked like maintaining their incredible record for most of the second half after pinning back the hosts for the early passages of play.
Sam Thaiday came agonisingly close to giving the Maroons an unassailable lead in the 51st minute following a huge play from Greg Inglis.
The South Sydney superstar pickpocketed the ball from the grasp of Josh Reynolds with a one-on-one strip deep in the Blues' half of the field.
The ball was fed to Thaiday who barged his way over the line only to lose control of the ball under pressure from Jarryd Hayne.
The on-field call of “no try” was confirmed by the video referees, although Queensland coach Mal Meninga said post-match that he believed Thaiday had regained possession just before touching down.
Hodkinson’s try came after a period of sustained pressure from the Blues.
He threw a dummy that left Ben Te'o grasping as he charged over the line and then held his nerve to kick the extras, leaving the Maroons with little time to hit back.