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The Sydney Morning Herald

NO MORE BLUES FOR BENNY'S BOYS

Author: JOHN MACDONALD
Date: 30/05/1990
Words: 1430
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Sport
Page: 50
MELBOURNE: One moment of inspiration and 79 of perspiration gave NSW the State of Origin series when they defeated Queensland 12-6 in their historic match at Olympic Park last night.

Half Ricky Stuart, an unanimous Man of the Match, provided the inspired moment 30 minutes into the first half.

Stuart intercepted an inside pass from Queensland second-rower Dan Stains when a Maroon try looked imminent.

He then showed pace he is seldom credited with to race 80m and give NSW a 6-0 lead.

How did he feel? "I was buggered," Stuart said. "I saw Les Kiss coming across in cover and planned to chip inside."

Stuart made the decision to keep going and the lead which ensued was crucial.

The Canberra half's anticipation and determination was, however, overshadowed by another moment.

That came seven minutes from the end when NSW were awarded a penalty almost in front of the Queensland posts. Queensland half Allan Langer was penalised for stealing the ball from NSW replacement forward Glenn Lazarus.

Winger Rod Wishart kicked the most crucial goal of his young life to break a 6-6 deadlock.

Asked if the failure to convert opportunities had cost Queensland a win, coach Arthur Beetson said: "We were one decision short of a win. It's nice to be gracious after a loss, but we didn't want the referee and neither did NSW.

Queensland captain Wally Lewis was more outspoken.

"Referee Greg McCallum said he'd called held," Lewis said. "There are 10 blokes here who heard him call 'play on'. Lazarus ran another 2m. There was that indiscretion before the other one. The referee said he called 'held' four times."

NSW coach Jack Gibson was critical about McCallum's not acting on the alleged abuse he received from Queensland.

"He was too weak to do anything about it," Gibson said. "You can write that."

As always, it was a pity a refereeing controversy marred a major match.

While it wasn't the State of Origin classic the Australian Rugby League had hoped the record crowd of 25,800 would see, the game provided its own individuality and moments of drama and exhilaration to add to the Origin chapters.

True, there were too many mistakes, too many unforced errors, to make it a classic, but there were compensations.

NSW won because of their professionalism and discipline, words often attributed to Queensland wins.

The Blues played without the ball for lengthy periods, but their unstinting defence and Stuart's accomplished kicking compensated.

Coach Gibson tells his kickers to "kick to the seagulls".

There weren't any nocturnal seagulls at Olympic Park, but Stuart's long punts found the open spaces.

Stuart's flourishes were supported by 80 minutes of unspectacular but priceless graft from second-rower David Gillespie in a busy pack.

Centre Mark McGaw tackled aggressively until replaced late in the game and replacement winger Graham Lyons made his share of mistakes but showed some crowd-winning evasive skills.

Queensland looked like a team one run short of optimum rhythm and they had multiple chances within the NSW quarter but lacked the finish which usually comes naturally.

They made the most errors but led every other statistic.

"We were a 10-point better team," Beetson said. They just didn't take the chances to prove it.

After a listless first half, the tempo picked up in the second half as Queensland opened up the game. They provided most of the football; NSW the defensive resolution.

Queensland gained parity with a wonderful try 10 minutes from time after a superb 60m sprint from winger Alan McIndoe.

Quick hands from Kerrod Walters and Lewis, a run by Trevor Gillmeister and a deflection by NSW's Brad Mackay saw Gary Belcher put Les Kiss over in the corner. Mal Meninga goaled from the sideline.

The pulsating last 10 minutes brought the crowd frequently to their feet.

Wishart's goal edged NSW ahead and Mackay intercepted a desperate Queensland pass a minute from time to wrap it up.

Said the triumphant Stuart: "As a youngster I watched the State of Origin with my family and thought I'd love to be there one day."

It was his night but Stuart thanked Gillespie, Bruce McGuire, Brad Clyde and the other NSW forwards. He meant it and they deserved it.

Bob Lindner had another fine game for Queensland, fullback Belcher provided some wonderful moments of counterattack through precise footwork and quick-thinking, Meninga was back to his powerful best when given more opportunities than in Sydney, and there was Lewis.

It wasn't one of his best by his own standards, but he didn't save himself through the 80 minutes and all but got Queensland home through his plotting and power.

"I didn't expect to last the 80 minutes, but was glad I did," he said.

The refereeing controversy was supported by a controversy over the state of the surface which saw sure-footed players slip and slide on the spongy surface.

NSW five-eighth Des Hasler lasted just 10 minutes before being replaced by Andrew Farrar after another ankle injury.

Hasler and second-rower Bruce McGuire were taken to hospital with ankle injuries while Queensland's Gary Coyne was replaced early in the match with concussion.

"I'll take the blame for that," Gibson said with bitter humour about the spate of injuries.

Gibson had advised his men to wear extra long sprigs as protection, but they didn't overcome the surface.

Captain Benny Elias and prop Steve Roach wore short sprigs until half-time before changing boots. "I said to Jack: 'You were right'," Elias said.

Said Beetson: "Judging by the crowd you'd say it was a success, but you'd think after all their trips down here, the Australian Rugby League could have produced a better quality surface."

The Melbourne experiment must be judged a success, but it will take at least another game here to confirm the initial promising findings.

This wasn't one of the great ones, and if the locals still liked it, a bigger ground will be called for next time.

NSW 12 (R Stuart B Mackay tries, R Wishart 2 goals) bt QUEENSLAND 6 (L Kiss try M Meninga goal). Referee: G McCallum. Crowd: 25,800.

Illawarra five-eighth John Simon gave further notice that he is headed for League stardom with an inspiring performance to help NSW's Under-21 side to a 22-0 triumph over Queensland at Olympic Park last night.

Simon led the way as the Blues completely outclassed the Maroons in the State of Origin curtain-raiser, running in three tries in the second half after leading 4-0 at the break.

The classy Steelers' pivot, who has come to first grade only in the past few weeks, finished with 10 points with a try and three goals from four attempts.

He gave the Blues their half-time lead with penalty goals in the 14th and 34th minutes, but it was his try six minutes into the second half which sunk the Maroons.

With NSW pressing Queensland's line, Simon pushed and weaved his way through three defenders to score beside the posts and duly converted.

From there the floodgates opened for NSW, with Canberra lock David Barnhill and St George's Ian Herron crossing in the 63rd and 67th minutes.

While Simon and Parramatta halfback Jason Bell lifted the NSW backs, Barnhill and Newcastle's Paul Marquet played strongly in the forwards.

Queensland's only try-scoring chance came in the 56th minute when Brisbane prop David Liddel was pushed into touch only a metre short of the line.

After that, and the carrying off of Maroon halfback Peter Robinson shortly after, it was all NSW.

 
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