Johnathan Thurston (left) and Gavin Cooper celebrate the Maroons' victory in Origin II.
Johnathan Thurston (left) and Gavin Cooper celebrate the Maroons' victory in Origin II. Mark Kolbe

Cooper lauds JT's toughness in Origin epic

AFTER every game Gavin Cooper's old man lets him know how many tackles he's made. On Wednesday night, it was 47.

All those were made beside a "bruised and battered" Johnathan Thurston as his Cowboys teammate bravely played on in agony with a crook shoulder.

Thurston justifiably got much of the plaudits in the 18-16 come-from-behind win, inspiring his troops with his mental strength to play on and boot the winning conversion under pressure.

But the feats of Cooper and fellow Cowboy Michael Morgan, who set up Dane Gagai's match-winning try with a flick pass reminiscent of his 2015 grand final heroics, shouldn't be understated.

Cooper was enormous in his second Origin match for Queensland, complementing his defensive workload with 108m from 12 runs.

After losing his debut game in Origin III last year he was relieved he was able to do his part in keeping Thurston's swansong series alive by helping Queensland recover from 16-6 down.

"He wasn't coming off, he'd already missed one Origin," Cooper said.

"It's been spoken about for a while how resilient he is at any level, let alone Origin level. He plays well above his weight every time and gets hit without the ball quite a lot.

"To keep bouncing up and doing what he does is pretty special and the boys definitely get a kick when he's being beaten and battered, but still comes up with the goods when the game's on the line.

"He's already had one of those big kicks at that stadium (in the 2015 grand final) and it just clipped the post, and we didn't think it was going to happen again.

"We're very happy with the result but the way we got it too makes it a little more special."

Cooper said the Maroons were always confident they could hit back in the second half after a few near misses when they entered the Blues' danger zone.

"We weren't that bad in the first half, it was just two quick lapses back to back and we were down by 10," he said.

"Kevvie wasn't all that disappointed at half-time. We knew the points was going to come if we built some pressure, we only had three or four shots at them and got a try once and got held up once.

"We knew if we got down there we could cause them some trouble and we did."

Immortal Andrew Johns created headlines by rating the Blues' second half as "the dumbest half of football NSW has played" for not targeting Thurston in defence, who made 10 tackles.

But Cooper said the numbers suggested they went down Queensland's right edge more than people thought.

"I made nearly 50 tackles so I don't know where they were running at," Cooper said.

"He held his own, the old fella."

Cooper is set to play his 250th NRL match against one of his former teams Penrith in Townsville tomorrow.

It was also set to be Thurston's 300th game, but injury looks set to to delay his milestone.

"You couldn't have wrote the script any better, getting his 300th while becoming the highest-capped Cowboy (with 271) and me getting 250 at the same time," Cooper said.

"It's pretty special, especially with one of my best mates.

"It'll be a special day and hopefully John's there."

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