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Queensland level State of Origin series

NZN 21/06/2017 Laine Clark

Who else but Johnathan Thurston?

The veteran playmaker marked a triumphant return from injury for Queensland by kicking a late sideline conversion to seal a come from behind 18-16 State of Origin game two win in Sydney on Wednesday night.

The stage is now set for Queensland to send Maroons warrior Thurston out of Origin a winner in the July 12 decider at Suncorp Stadium.

But the jury is out on Thurston's fitness again after he aggravated a shoulder injury.

He is still hoping to play his 300th NRL game in North Queensland's Saturday night clash with Penrith.

NSW looked in sight of just their second series win since 2005 when they led 16-6 at halftime in front of an 82,259-strong crowd.

But the Maroons weren't to be denied, matching NSW's three tries - including a double by Queensland winger Dane Gagai - to send the series into a decider.

The ageing Queensland side somehow remain on track for their 11th Origin triumph in 12 years.

Queensland skipper Cameron Smith credited Thurston with the win.

"I can't think of anyone else you'd want to have a crack at that goal," he said.

"He's a warrior.

"I really don't know how he gets up for these matches."

It marked a fitting return for Maroons playmaker Thurston from a shoulder injury and fullback Billy Slater after he was controversially overlooked for Queensland's record 28-4 game one loss in Brisbane.

The once mighty Maroons were at an Origin crossroads after undergoing their biggest team shake-up in 15 years ahead of game two, making seven changes and naming four debutants.

Now they are on track to send off some of their biggest names as winners.

Thurston will bow out of Origin after game three while the Maroons future of the likes of Slater and halfback Cooper Cronk remains up in the air.

"Johnathan is a little bit busted up," Queensland coach Kevin Walters said.

"(But) this Queensland team, they've got so many champions in them, you always think you're a chance regardless of the scoreboard."

NSW coach Laurie Daley claimed the Blues "weren't good enough" to land the killer blow.

"It's always difficult because you're never too far in front - Origin can swing pretty quickly," Daley said.

"With 15 (minutes) to go, I thought maybe we lost our way a little bit but we hung on and got through that danger period ... it was like tighten the seatbelts, we're in for a rocky ride and Queensland were good enough to score."

Daley feared pre-match that Queensland's slow play the ball tactics would turn game two into wrestlemania but bit his tongue when asked about officials on Wednesday night.

"I'll get in trouble if I comment on referees, don't I?" Daley said.

Queensland fortuitously drew first blood when debutant winger Valentine Holmes tip toed down the sideline to score in the ninth minute but from there it was one way traffic in the first half.

Centre Jarryd Hayne scored in the 14th minute, marking four pointer No.11 for NSW - equalling Michael O'Connor as NSW's leading Origin try scorer.

The one-two punch of tries to winger Brett Morris (24th) and halfback Mitchell Pearce (27th) ensured NSW had all the momentum.

However, Gagai scored twice (53rd, 77th) before Thurston again broke Blues hearts in the dying minutes.

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