Last night’s opening State of Origin encounter
produced another classic “Origin finish” but it fell well short of being
another classic Origin game.

Indeed, it won’t be remembered for much more than the
one point margin – and the fact the winning field goal was kicked by the Blues
Brett Finch who was the fourth choice half back! The Blues won 17-16.

Both sides will take something positive out of the
game, of course. The Blues will believe that with such a disjointed preparation
any win is a good win. And they will rightly believe they were totally dominant
for about three quarters of the game.

The Maroons will believe they could not possibly play
as badly again as they did in the first half. And they will regard the second
half comeback as classic Maroons (and Origin) stuff.

You have to take your hat off to Brett Finch. His form
with the Roosters has been ordinary, and hardened Roosters fans have been
calling the open line programs for weeks demanding his axing.

The Blues first pick for half was Craig Gower, then it
was Andrew Johns ending his retirement, then it was Matt Orford, but he was also
injured. So at about 9pm on
Tuesday night Brett Finch got the call-up. And he delivered in spades, as he did when he got a similar late call-up
two years ago.

As I expected, the Blues forwards were dominant. After
a very shaky start, the Maroons backs proved their worth, especially the
19-year-old NSW born newcomer Greg Inglis. To recover as he did from a couple
of bad mistakes and score two tries to put the Maroons back in the game showed
he is a class act.

This match won’t feature in any DVD package
of the second 25 years of State of Origin rugby
league. But the close result, and the drama leading up to the game, will keep
the Origin spirit very much alive – and that is what the administrators wanted,
and the Origin concept needed.

And in breaking news this morning, Mark Gasnier has just signed a new contract
with the St George Illawarra Dragons – to run from 2007 until 2011 – effectively
closing the door on changing codes and ending eight months of speculation that he
would follow the money and switch to rugby union.