Johnathan Thurston of the Maroons (right) celebrates with teammates after winning game two.
Johnathan Thurston of the Maroons (right) celebrates with teammates after winning game two. Cameron Spencer

Here's Johnny ... Maroons shining star seals win

JOHNATHAN Thurston. You are a genius ... even when you are busted.

Queensland's remarkable record-breaking dynasty is still alive after an injured Thurston defied 50 minutes of pain to stun the Blues 18-16 in an Origin epic at ANZ Stadium.

Before a crowd of 82,259, the Blues had one hand on the shield when they withstood a second-half Maroons onslaught to lead 16-12 entering the dying stages of Origin II.

But summoning every fibre of Queensland spirit, the Maroons conjured a great escape, with Dane Gagai sensationally crossing for his second try to level scores at 16-all two minutes from time.

With thousands of Blue and Maroon hearts beating beyond control, Thurston was the ice man, landing a booming sideline conversion to break NSW and save Queensland from a series defeat.

It was the type of performance that evoked images of Wally Lewis in his pomp.

Thurston injured his shoulder in the 30th minute and it was limp for most of the match, but the Maroons talisman refused to surrender ... and his Queensland cohorts rode his wave of inspiration.

In the process, Thurston preserved his own fairytale. The Houdini effort sets up a thrilling decider at Suncorp Stadium on July 12, giving Thurston the opportunity to leave the Maroons a hero in his 38th and final game for Queensland.

The Blues led 16-6 at halftime and looked in control for much of the second stanza, but a Gagai double in the 52nd and 78th minutes underlined why this Queensland side never says die.

From the opening minutes, this interstate clash wasn't about wrestle and niggle. This was about NSW's class and composure.

Given NSW's dominance in Origin I, the Maroons needed to score first to renew confidence and it came after just nine minutes with a movement that vindicated Darius Boyd's selection at centre.

Attacking NSW's right edge, the ball was shifted quickly to Boyd, who showed superb hands to release debutant Valentine Holmes for his maiden Origin try and a crucial 6-0 lead.

It should have been the catalyst for a Maroons onslaught. Instead, the Blues, galvanised by greater belief, held their nerve.

Queensland have two defensive problems they need to address. One is the cheap metres they allowed the Blues in midfield. The other related to Cooper Cronk, who has a tendency to back off in defence, giving NSW's playmakers the latitude to create for their strike weapons.

When Cronk hesitated in the 14th minute, the Blues pounced. James Maloney and James Tedesco combined to free Jarryd Hayne, who equalled Michael O'Connor as NSW's greatest tryscorer with his 11th try in 21 games.

Wade Graham, David Klemmer and Jake Trbojevic were outstanding. By contrast, Maroons bench debutant Tim Glasby had a night to forget. The Storm prop missed the tackle on Maloney that saw Brett Morris crash over for a 10-6 lead.

And when Glasby and Josh McGuire failed to shut down an inside ball for a flying Tedesco, who released Mitchell Pearce, the Maroons were floundering at 16-6 inside 27 minutes.

Typically, this magnificent Maroons side refused to wilt. As long as Thurston is around, Queensland are never six feet under.

News Corp Australia

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