The Queensland Maroons won 18-12 in a State of Origin thriller at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night.
The first 35 minutes of the first half belonged to Queensland as they dominated possession and field position. The Blues managed to get in an attacking position before Valentine Holmes intercepted a James Tedesco pass to run 90 metres to score. The Maroons continued to control the majority of ball and were attacking the Blues’ line for what seemed an eternity, forcing repeat set after repeat set. The Blues were able to repel every attack the Maroons could muster before James Maloney was sin binned for running Billy Slater off an attacking kick and Holmes extended the lead to eight.
Queensland once again got into an attacking position before it was Tom Trbojevic’s turn to intercept a Munster pass and run the field to make the scores 8-6 in the 36th minute. Off the ensuing set, the Blues got a penalty to march down the field and Tedesco went over the line for the Blues to miraculously go into the break with a 12-8 lead.
The Maroons once again dominated field position to start the second half and capitalised when Holmes crossed in the corner, missing the conversion to level the scores at 12-12. It appeared all the defense the Blues had done was starting to cost them as Queensland continued to threaten in attack and it was Daly Cherry-Evans who converted a Munster line break and gave his team the lead. The Blues had a number of opportunities to tie the game in the remaining twenty minutes but failed to capitalise and the Maroons came away with the win.
NO SUCH THING AS DEAD RUBBER IN ORIGIN
It was essentially a dead rubber game with the series already wrapped up after Game Two but it sure didn’t feel like it. The intensity was high and it was obvious that this match still meant so much to both sides. The Blues wanted to sweep the series while the Maroons were playing for pride and were motivated to send Billy Slater off in the right way.
The Blues fought extremely hard all game and were very close to coming away with a win but the Maroons were just the better side on the night. Regardless of the result, tonight proved once again that there is no such thing as a dead rubber match in State of Origin.
CHERRY-EVANS STARS IN RETURN
It was a controversial selection by Queensland coach Kevin Walters to recall Daly Cherry-Evans to the side, particularly with young gun Ashley Taylor in some good tough, but he well and truly earnt his selection tonight.
Cherry-Evans was arguably Queensland’s best player and was influential in attack and constantly looked threatening with ball in hand. Assuming he doesn’t rapidly drop in form over the next twelve months you have to assume the halfback role is his to lose.
BLUES FIRST HALF DEFENSIVE EFFORT PROVES COSTLY
Almost the entire first half was played inside the Blues’ half and they were asked to defend their line on numerous occasions, but time and again they sent the Maroons away. It was a monumental effort and one that coach Brad Fittler would no doubt be proud of but it may be that effort that proved costly late in the game.
Midway through the second half, the Blues appeared to be running out of gas and the likes of Cameron Munster and Billy Slater took advantage. They had a few opportunities late in the game to mount a comeback but seemed to lack direction in attack, most likely to all the defense they were required to do in the match.
BILLY GETS HIS DREAM FAREWELL
Queensland were always going to be motivated to send their champion fullback out a winner and Billy Slater got just that. It was an incredibly tough game but Slater starred as his team got the win to avoid a series sweep.
To make it even sweeter for Slater, he was awarded Man of the Match for his effort tonight and given the Wally Lewis Medal for Player of the Series. It was a somewhat controversial decision to give him the Wally Lewis Medal, particularly in a losing side, but it was a great send-off for one of the greatest to ever play the game.
Tries: Valentine Holmes 2, Daly Cherry-Evans
Goals: Valentine Holmes 3/4
Drop Goals: n/a
NEW SOUTH WALES BLUES
Tries: Tom Trbojevic, James Tedesco
Goals: Nathan Cleary 2/2
Drop Goals: n/a
Queensland Maroons: 1 Billy Slater, 2 Valentine Holmes, 3 Dane Gagai, 4 Will Chambers, 5 Corey Oates, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Daly Cherry-Evans, 8 Jai Arrow, 9 Andrew McCullough, 10 Josh Papalii, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Felise Kaufusi, 13 Josh McGuire Interchange: 14 Ben Hunt, 15 Jarrod Wallace, 16 Coen Hess, 17 Tim Glasby
New South Wales Blues: 1 James Tedesco, 2 Tom Trbojevic, 3 Latrell Mitchell, 4 James Roberts, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 James Maloney, 7 Nathan Cleary, 8 David Klemmer, 9 Damien Cook, 10 Paul Vaughan, 11 Boyd Cordner, 12 Tyson Frizell, 15 Jake Trbojevic Interchange: 13 Jack de Belin, 14 Tariq Sims, 16 Angus Crichton, 17 Tyrone Peachey