Queensland’s bid to win a ninth straight State of Origin title took another blow on Saturday night when star back Greg Inglis injured his ankle in South Sydney’s 34-18 NRL win over the NZ Warriors in Perth.
Inglis could hardly walk after his right leg twisted awkwardly under the weight of two players in a tackle-gone-wrong just before half-time.
The 27-year-old was clearly in pain as he limped off and his injury could prove to be the breaking point of Queensland’s eight-year Origin domination.
The Maroons are already 1-0 down in the series, meaning the June 18 clash in Sydney is a must-win affair.
But with star fullback Billy Slater still under an injury cloud, the last man the Queensland could afford to lose was Inglis.
Rabbitohs winger Bryson Goodwin, a late replacement for Alex Johnson, was also in the casualty ward after hyper-extending his left elbow while making a second-half tackle.
Despite the double injury blow, the Rabbitohs ran in five tries in the final 21 minutes to secure the come-from-behind win in front of 20,267 fans.
The situation wasn’t looking so bright early when tries to David Fusitu’a and Shaun Johnson put the Warriors 10-0 up after just eight minutes.
Superman would have been proud of Fusitu’a’s effort, the winger launching himself full stretch and dotting down in the corner despite more than half of his air-borne body being in touch.
The Rabbitohs took a while to work their way into the contest, but looked dangerous once they did.
Centre Dylan Walker reduced the margin to four points when he sliced his way through the Warriors’ defence in the 24th minute.
With the momentum starting to shift, the Warriors opted to unleash some physical pain on the Rabbitohs.
Substitute Sebastine Ikahihifo was placed on report for a high hit on George Burgess and he left another Rabbitoh dazed just minutes later with a bruising tackle.
The Warriors were on track for victory when Simon Mannering’s 50th-minute try gave them a 14-6 edge.
But tries to Rabbitohs pair Walker and Kyle Turner within the space of two minutes swung the match South Sydney’s way, giving the ‘home’ side a 16-14 edge with 19 minutes to play.
A double to Dave Tyrrell iced the win, with Joel Reddy also scoring during the second half rout when he floated across a pack to take a high grab before crashing over.
South Sydney coach Michael Maguire confirmed Inglis had injured his ankle, but the club doctors were unsure about the severity of the damage.
“It got twisted underneath the tackle, and the leg did get caught there. It’s not great at the moment,” Maguire said.
“But he’s aggravated that same injury once before and he’s healed very quickly, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
“It was a game where we just had to fight until the death.
“We had no bench at one stage. I’m really proud of the team.”
Warriors coach Andrew McFadden felt his side missed a golden chance to secure victory over a high-profile rival.
“I thought given the circumstances, they were cherry ripe for the picking,” McFadden said.
“They hung in there and we went away completely from what we’ve been practising, and lost our way.”