NSWÂ looked the most capable on the night, but as they so oftenÂ do – the State of Origin specialists, Queensland muscled up and took out Game 3 and the 2008 State of Origin series tonight at ANZ Stadium.
In a gutsy affair, Queensland outpointed the New South Wales side 16-10 in a physical and at times fiery match. Its the first time in recent years that sparks flew and punches were thrown, with both sides hell bent on going out on top.
TheÂ Maroons dominated in the air and hung on through vital periods to again have the edge at the end. Queensland have the Origin stars and the desire to really make the next decade theirs, as NSW struggle to work out what went wrong yet again. NSW had a crop of talented players, but ultimately their skill level wasn’t anywhere near what the likes of Israel Folau, Greg Inglis and Jonathan Thurston boast.
NSW captain Danny Buderus unfortunately ended his Origin career on a sour note, but toiled hard for his side – proving a handful for Queensland most of the night.
The game had everything â€“ end to end action, gritty defence, injuries, brawls â€“ before QueenslandÂ motored home through a Jonathan Thurston dummyÂ line break with a sweet offload to Billy Slater to put them ahead by 6. NSW never looked like recovering after the late counter punch.
The Maroons did it largely without Scott Prince, who lef the field with a broken arm early in the match. The loss of Prince saw Queensland look flat in attack for a good majority of the match, while they hung in tight during wave after wave of NSW attack – many thought they ultimately would falter without Prince and JT combining mid-field.
New South Wales led 10-8 at halftime despite a first-half try scoring double to Queenslandâ€™s Israel Folau, with Matt Cooper scoring a try and Craig Fitzgibbon kicking three goals. Folau was dynamite in the air and NSW had no answer, even with protection and time to defuse bombs – Anthony Quinn will have nightmares, as his Storm teammate Folau continued to fly above him, looking more like a Harlem Globetrotter than an NRL player.
The Blues were let down badly by Cronulla hard man Paul Gallen, considered by many as one of the dirtiest players in the NRL – Gallen gave away some mind boggling penalties and compounded them all with a silly late hit on Thurston which gave Queensland much needed thrust in the middle of the game.
AÂ second-half try to Billy Slater swung the momentum well and truly the Maroonsâ€™ way, and the Blues couldn’t breach the Queensland defence to get back into the contest. Cool hand Cameron Smith played patiently all game, he worked well with referee Tony Archer and where the Blues shouted and screamed at some 50/50 calls, the ice man Smith always approached Archer well and continued to keep his side poised to strike.
In the home straight with the final battle on, it looked like the Maroons could have blown it when Karmichael Hunt spilled a pass on his own 30-metre line to give NSW a great attacking opportunity. But the cane toads held firm and showed their famous passion and desire, to again deny the disappointing NSW side.
The Maroons were first to break the rules, with an early penalty comin from a high shot from Petero Civoniceva â€“ and then all hell broke loose. Tempers flared and it errupted, players came running from everywhere. Referee Tony Archer knew he had his work cut out for him from then on in.
It was suddenly an Origin game of old, with players from both teamsÂ filing in, ready to throw haymakers after Kurt Gidley gave Civoniceva a retaliation push.
Essentially thisÂ first melee was mostly push and shove, but the main course was around the corner. In this first flare up the penalty went to NSW withÂ FitzgibbonÂ nailing the penalty goal and the crowd getting into the game from the start; knowing this was going to be firey right the way through.
The roar of the local NSW crowdÂ was quickly hosed down afterÂ BluesÂ flanker Anthony Quinn â€“ such a rock solid performer in game one â€“ dropped a simple bomb to allow Folau to score in right corner. The former Knights, now Storm winger did however manage to regain his confidence quickly with some bullocking runs – but there was more arial attack set to come his way later in the game.
Johnathan Thurston missed his kick at goal, denying the Maroons any extras, and theÂ Queenslanders led 4-2 after only 5 minutes.
Gidley proved to be a smart insertion into the starting side, having plenty of touches early on and threatening at times – the Knights flyer instrumental in the Bluesâ€™Â initial touchdown -Â taking the ball to the line before getting an offload away to send Matt Cooper crashing over out wide.
Fitzgibbon potted the conversion from the touchline to give the NSW team a 4 point lead.
Queensland were dealt a shocking early blow, with playmaker Scott Prince ruled out of the match after just 15 minutes with a suspected fractured arm. The news was horrible for the Queensland and Titans faithful, but to their credit the Maroons somehow kept themselves in the contest without their main man and the assistance of an additional reserve.
Thurston did well as he took on the solo playmaking duties and showed he is more than capable on his own as he setup Folauâ€™s 2nd touchdown with an inch perfect bomb. It may well go down as one of the great Origin tries; Folau leaping extremely high, getting massive hangtime to take the bomb on the full. Folau easily above the shoulder height of his opposite Anthony Quinn and as Folau fell backwards with ball in hand he reached while upside down to plant the ball perfectly for a try.
It was a stunning try, leveling the scores at 8-8, and thatâ€™s where the scoreline stayed after Thurston missed his second conversion. The freakish play broke NSW hearts and realistically, the Blues did well to remain upbeat after such a heavy hit from the enemy.
Ftizgibbon restored NSWâ€™s lead with another penalty goal after a surging 25-metre run from outgoing captain Buderus. But too much of the Blues points was from penalties, they looked likely to score at times but never had the final play. NSW were probably guilty of not risking things enough, playing too safe and staying too close to the ruck.
Queensland had their final attacking wave of the first half, sending the ball through the hands down the left for Darius Boyd to run clear, but Boydâ€™s scrappy final pass infield went to ground just out of reach of Hunt.
The crowd eventually sawÂ legitimate punches on the nightÂ after Maroons forward Nate Myles speared Ben Cross into the ground, in a dangerous tackle. Players ran in from all directions and Cross at least was seen throwing some decent haymakers at his enemy. It was refreshing to see a ‘genuine’ scrap, unlike the recent melee’s similar to AFL where players chest each other and push – ultimately looking silly and laughable.
Myles was put on report by referee Tony Archer before being hooked by head coach Mal Meninga.
Michael CrockerÂ was then involved in aÂ bizzare incident after copping aÂ Mitchell Pearce bomb in the back of the head â€“ the ball crashing into the rear of the Queenslanders skull and blacking him out for 30 seconds. The big man was clearly dazed and unable to walk for some time, before being assisted from the field.
The Maroons may have been losing players but the ones they had left were getting the job done, with Thurston splitting the NSW defence before sending a flying Billy Slater in to score the visitorsâ€™ 3rd score. The movement was simple, but looked slick and certainly did the job. JT running wide and using the cross-field dummy, Brett White becoming slightly lazy in defence and Mitchell Pearce staying wider to mark Inglis; allowing JT to cruise through and position the dashing Billy SlaterÂ to dive over.
The Blues continued to bombard the Queensland line but Pearce couldnâ€™t find the last-tackle play to unlock the Maroons defence. A story that was true for most of the night for theÂ Blues, they looked fast and played good depth but didn’t have that final play to pierce the gritty Queensland defence line.
NSW had one last throw of the dice in the final minute, with a full set inside Queenslandâ€™s 20 metres, but when Archer called a Braith Anasta pass forward the game slipped out of their grasp.
There would be no fairytale finish for Buderus, with Queensland running out Origin champions for the third successive year.
Queensland take another Championship and prove themselves the ultimate Origin side. Regardless of personnel, circumstances or bounce of the ball – The Queenslanders are simply the best when it comes to the clash of States, they are positioned to hold the throne for many years to come.
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Tries: Folau 2, Slater
Goals: Thurston 2
New South Wales 10
Goals: Fitzgibbon 3