Aaron Woods assumed the mantle as rugby league’s premier front-rower with another standout State of Origin performance in NSW’s game two win.
Woods stomped over his Queensland opposite Matt Scott to score midway through the second half at the MCG to give the Blues a lead they never relinquished and force the series to a decider in Brisbane next month.
Woods ran for a game-high 150m from 17 runs and made 21 tackles as the Blues prevailed 26-18.
But even more important was his first Origin try, which returned NSW the lead which they had meekly surrendered shortly after halftime.
“It was probably one of the best experiences ever,” Wood said of the try.
“I just didn’t expect it, but I just backed myself, I thought I was going to tip it on to Gal (captain Paul Gallen) but I just went for it.
“I just wanted to get the ball down as quickly as possible, we are a tight bunch of boys and to get that win with them is the best thing ever.”
Wood said he wasn’t interested in talk of a changing of the guard, after NSW again dominated up front as they had done in Origin I.
“We couldn’t care less,” he said.
“We just wanted to go forward and if they were going to be dirty we would just play footy back at them.”
Woods’ Wests Tigers skipper and Blues teammate Robbie Farah said he continued to improve.
“I’m so proud. he’s come a long way, he’s one of the best front-rowers in the world,” Farah said.
“I’ve seen him develop and grow as a person and a player, from a 17-year-old kid and it makes me so proud to see where he’s at right now.
“He’s a leader at such a young age, not only here but at the Tigers.
“He’s got a long career in rep footy, that’s for sure.”