After Queensland lost the opening origin clash by 28-4, many critics thought Queensland’s dynasty might come to an end. But Kevin Walters and his men were a completely different team on Wednesday night at Suncorp Stadium. A team which had regained form and used their decade of success as motivation to secure their 11th origin triumph in 12 series to to produce an amazing 22 – 6 victory over a highly competitive New South Wales Blues side in front of packed house at Suncorp Stadium.
Valentine Holmes’s Incredible Hat trick
Queensland caused plenty of defensive headaches for the New South Wales team as the Maroons put on a livewire attacking display. Valentine Holmes was one of many men who featured in this brilliant show of attach as he became just the fifth ever Queensland player to score a hat trick in origin football. His first try came about through Billy Slater who linked up with Michael Morgan who showed off his ball running prowess in order to send Holmes into the corner. Cameron Smith nailed his sideline conversion which gave his side a 6-nil.
On the 26th minute Holmes received one of the best cross field kicks you will ever see from Cooper Cronk which secured a first half double for the Cronulla flyer. Cameron Smith slotted another sideline conversion with ease and Queensland led 12-nil at the break.
Valentine Holmes third try will be the one to remember for a long time. Cameron Munster who had an outstanding debut for the Maroons made a line break and fired a ball which easily could have gone over the sideline. The athlete of Holmes came up with a miracle one hand full stretched take as he has now scored four tries in just two origin appearances for Queensland.
NSW tried hard but it wasn’t enough
The series was definitely the New South Wales to lose. They dominated game one. They controlled majority of game two but there performance in final quarter of that match let them down. If there was going to be a NSW side to replicate two victories in Queensland like in the 1996 series it was this team. They had the same team on the paddock for all three matches.
But what went wrong?
After being down 12-nil at half time the Blues thought back with an excellent try to Josh Dugan as they trailed the Maroons 12-6. Despite the Blues showing desperation in defence, especially in the first half where they did extremely well not to concede more than 12 points. New South Wales couldn’t mirror the clever precision and composed formation that Queensland had in attack. There were times where New South Wales needed their forward pack to muscle their way back into the game. Despite the negatives there were shining moments for the Blues with Josh Dugan’s amazing try, James Maloney terrific effort in attack and defence. Last but not least Brett Morris first half try saver on Cooper Cronk was perfect display of the effort New South Wales showed. But unfortunately for them it just wasn’t enough on the night.
Kevin Walters – The Genius
Kevin Walters and the Queensland selectors faced plenty of criticism for their player selection. Which included the selection of Michael Morgan out of position, Ben Hunt who was playing Queensland Cup less than a month ago and Cameron Munster who was given the difficult task of making his debut at five eighth and replacing the injured Johnathan Thurston in the decider. This gamble didn’t just pay off. It was a stroke of genius. Cameron Munster was instrumental for the Maroons as he was involved in all four Queensland tries and put up one of the best origin debut performances in living memory. His miraculous offload to assist Jarrod Wallace’s try which sealed the 22-6 victory and his combinations in attack with his Melbourne team mates Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater and Cameron Smith was second to none. Michael Morgan playing centre paved the way for his ability to show off his damaging ball running game and further proved why he is one of the best utility players of the modern era. Kevin Walters could be set for long and prosperous coaching career if he continues to think outside the box in order to get the job done.
A fitting farewell to an absolute champion
This match was just more than another shield to add to the Queensland trophy cabinet. It was also about what happened before and after the decider. Jonathan Thurston was given an amazing and very fitting farewell by the Queensland faithful. A legend that has represented the Maroons 37 times over 12 years was supported on stage with his wife and children in front of a capacity crowd at Suncorp Stadium. But it was after the game where Maroons skipper Cameron Smith invited the injured Johnathan Thurston to lift the shield with him on stage. The camaraderie and team belief of Queensland is what has driven Queensland’s winning culture over the last 12 origin series. Their support for one another and there strive for ultimate success. One rugby league legend in Cameron Smith honouring a long time Queensland teammate Johnathan Thurston, It’s a moment that rugby league will never forget.