An enthralling contest that was decided in the final minute, the New South Wales Blues defended their shield and recorded a six point victory over a rampant Queensland Maroons at ANZ Stadium.
Emerging with more vigour in attack proved valuable for the Blues, who capitalised on the Maroons’ ill-discipline in the ruck and slotted the first penalty goal of the decider (2-0). Gifted valuable field position courtesy of consecutive penalties, the Maroons utilised a sweeping movement to muster their first try. Cleverly identifying that Blues fullback James Tedesco was out of position, Maroon Corey Norman delivered a pinpoint kick for backrower Felise Kaufusi (6-2). A penalty goal elevated the Maroons’ lead to six points (8-2), before the Blues returned serve with a try against the run of play. A determined run from forward Paul Vaughan was enough to find the line, leaving Christian Welch and Josh McGuire in his wake. Personifying the spectacle of Origin, nothing separated the two teams at half time (8-8).
A wall of blue was all the Maroons could see for the majority of the second half. A blinding sole effort from Blues fullback James Tedesco proved too much for Maroon Will Chambers, who was left perplexed as the Blues elevated their lead (14-8). Minutes later, hooker Damien Cook followed suit and donned dazzling footwork to seemingly put the Blues’ lead beyond doubt with a quarter of the game remaining (20-8). However, a glimmer of hope arose for the Maroons when forwards Josh McGuire and Josh Papalii monstered their way to the line in succession (20-20). Despite carrying the momentum following their late surge, the Maroons’ hope was all but squashed when the Blues’ backline, in Tom Trbojevic, Blake Ferguson and James Tedesco, combined to execute the most exciting try of the series. Strolling over in the right corner in front of a batch of screaming Blues sealed the decider for New South Wales and left the dejected Maroons wondering what could have been (26-20).
The Blues’ victory on Wednesday evening secured their first back-to-back series in 14 years (2004/2005). While many questioned the Blues’ ability to reign supreme over a Maroons team fuelled by an era of dominance, Brad Fittler’s troops certainly debunked any concerns in the final minute. When considering the youth that the Blues possess, the thought of what they could achieve in the next few series is an exciting prospect and begs the question; can the Blues inflict the same pain to the Maroons that they experienced for the better part of a decade?
Maroons feeling Blue
Having had the better of the Blues for 50 minutes of the 80, disappointment will no doubt be evident among the Maroons. However, they can take some solace in the fact that their performance was unprecedented in comparison to their previous effort in Perth. The effort displayed by the Maroons was second to none, exemplified by their 1520 run metres, 11 offloads and 346 tackles. While their performance was not enough to claw victory, their determination left nothing to be desired.
Following brilliant performances in the first two games of the series, it was only fitting that James Tedesco was commended with the Wally Lewis Medal. Assuming much of the attacking play and continually immersing himself on both sides of the field largely contributed to the Blues’ success. Finishing the game with two tries, 230 run metres, two offloads and three line breaks, Tedesco was nothing short of sensational and thoroughly warranted the top honour.
Lowe tremendous on debut
Despite being called in at the 11th hour to replace an injured Matt Gillett, Rabbitohs enforcer Ethan Lowe was a knight in shining armour for the Maroons. Among his whopping 52 tackles and 100% conversion rate was a charge down that single-handedly set the game alight and sparked the Maroons’ resurgence. Albeit a loss, Lowe’s debut was spectacular and he has certainly set himself up to have a long and successful State of Origin career.
New South Wales Blues 26
Tries: James Tedesco 2, Damien Cook, Paul Vaughan
Goals: James Maloney 5
Queensland Maroons 20
Tries: Felise Kaufusi, Josh McGuire, Josh Papalii
Goals: Ethan Lowe 4
New South Wales Blues: 1 James Tedesco, 2 Blake Ferguson, 3 Tom Trbojevic, 4 Jack Wighton, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 James Maloney, 7 Mitchell Pearce, 8 Daniel Saifiti, 9 Damien Cook, 15 David Klemmer, 11 Boyd Cordner, 12 Tyson Frizell, 13 Jake Trbojevic. Interchange: 10 Paul Vaughan, 14 Dale Finucane, 16 Cameron Murray, 17 Wade Graham.
Queensland Maroons: 1 Cameron Munster, 2 Corey Oates, 14 Moses Mbye, 4 Will Chambers, 5 Dane Gagai, 6 Corey Norman, 7 Daly Cherry-Evans, 8 Joe Ofahengaue, 9 Ben Hunt, 10 Josh Papalii, 11 Felise Kaufusi, 18 Ethan Lowe, 13 Josh McGuire. Interchange: 3 Michael Morgan, 15 Christian Welch, 16 Tim Glasby, 17 David Fifita.