Classic Clashes: The Return of King Joey
With a bye this week, we look to one of the most historic State of Origin clashes that heavily featured Newcastle Knights legend Andrew Johns.
It was game II in 2005; in-front of a thunderous crowd of more than 82,000 fans at Sydney Olympic Stadium, a sea of blue drowning out a hint of maroon.
Queensland had the chance to wrap up the series, while NSW were playing to stay alive, after the Blues lost their first match by a heartbreaking four points.
While Johns didn't feature in game I, the blues looked to the future immortal to be their X-factor, and that decision was ultimately what helped them win the series.
Johns had been plagued by injury that year and had only played nine games in the past two seasons.
His selection in Origin was controversial, but he was needed and forged ahead to play one of his most memorable Origin's in history.
In the number seven jersey, Johns put a kick up in the 14th minute and while the Maroons were all over it, a lucky bounce ricocheted off the posts to land in the hands of Anthony Minichiello.
He smoothly gathered the ball to slide besides the posts and open the try scoring account. With an easy conversion by Craig Fitzgibbon, the blues were 6-0 in an electrifying start.
An undisciplined strip from Queensland big man Petero Civoniceva sent Fitzgibbon to the lines minutes later and the score line was extended to 8-0.
It took Queensland a while to respond but in the 29th minute, Darren Lockyer was the man to get things started.
His kick shaved the upright and Brad Thorn performed an aerial leap over a stack of blues defenders to crash down with the football. Cameron Smith converted, and it was 8-6 still in NSW favour.
Just before the halftime break, Minichiello fumbled the ball and a speedy Billy Slater picked up the crumbs to run a near length of the field try. Smith nailed the conversion and it was the Maroons in front, 12-8.
But it was the Johns shows in the first five minutes of the second half.
A 40/20, superb cut out passes before he freed up space for Minichiello to stride over for the double before his brilliance directed play out wide to Steve Menzies in the 48th minute, who muscled his way to the line.
Johns was now on kicking duty and made no mistake to extend an NSW lead to 20-12.
Ten minutes on the clock went by before the blues struck again, as Johns riffled the ball to Matt Cooper, who off-loaded to Mark Gasnier to do most of the leg work before going back to Cooper to finish it off. Johns struck three from three and it was 26-12.
Not content on letting NSW run away with it, Queensland fired in the 68th minute as Matt Bowen took a precision short pass and legged it to the line, but in a solid night for NSW, Knights teammates combined in the final five minutes to seal the victory.
Johns stepped off the right foot 10 metres from the line before he confidently dished to Danny Buderus who recorded his second Origin try. Fitzgibbon was back on the kick and kept his perfect record to see the blues out to 32-16.
In the dying seconds of the match, the maroons made a last-ditch effort for the line and succeeded, as big fella Civoniceva barged his way through a tight NSW pack.
Smith booted an easy conversion from 10 out, but it was the blues to level the series.
NSW then went on the conquer game III, as they romped home 32-10 at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium, which was to be their last series win for eight long years.