A stunning late try to Michael Jennings handed the Blues a dead rubber winner in the final ever Origin match for Paul Gallen and Corey Parker. Here are five talking points from Game Three.
Blues right edge suffers teething problems but recovers
A by-product of the NSW team changes, with Matt Moylan starting at five-eighth and Josh Dugan at right centre, was that the new-look Blues right edge of winger Blake Ferguson (a regular centre at club level), Dugan at centre (usually a fullback) and Moylan defending three-in as five-eighth (also usually a fullback) struggled with some early miscommunication in defence. Queensland's first try, in just the fifth minute, saw a flat-footed Moylan hang back as Dugan rushed in leaving a huge gap and a simple task for Johnathan Thurston and Darius Boyd to create the overlap for Inglis's 18th Origin try.
The Blues trio improved markedly from there – though that channel continued to be a target all night and Gavin Cooper ran through Moylan for the Maroons' second try. To Moylan's credit, despite being targeted throughout he finished with 19 tackles and just one missed tackle, while Dugan made 10 for no misses.
Maroons give the whistle a work out but defend like fury
The half-time penalty count read 9-1 against the Maroons and there could be little quibble with most of the decisions – the majority were regulation offside or late flop penalties that would have been given every day of the year. Combined with a couple of line drop-outs it created a 57 per cent possession rate for NSW in the opening 40. The Maroons had to make 202 first-half tackles to 137 for the Blues. After a run of four straight penalties and a talking to, Cooper Cronk committed a professional foul and was sin-binned for the final 10 minutes of the half.
Yet with everything going their way the Blues just couldn't find a way through. Queensland defended furiously, turning the Blues away again and again. Once they went down to 12 men they shifted their impregnable sliding defence to a more up-and-in tactic to hurry the Blues and to go in at just 6-4 at half-time was a huge achievement.
A pair of sin bins that could have turned the game
The above-mentioned sin-binning of Cronk 10 minutes from half-time for taking a player off the ball came at a time a tired Queensland could ill-afford to go down to 12 men but they handled the setback. NSW pounded their line while he was off the field but they held firm. Despite protestations from Queensland skipper Cameron Smith and from the Channel Nine commentary box, four straight penalties followed by a professional foul realistically left the officials with little choice.
They made the right decision again in the second half when, after Gavin Cooper scored and celebrated by throwing the ball at Matt Moylan's head, Andrew Fifita came from more than 10 metres away to throw a headlock around the 30-year-old debutant. It was a brain snap of monumental proportions, and it caused a huge scuffle that could have got out of hand. It made it an easy decision for the officials to sit him down for 10 minutes but like their counterparts, the Blues recovered to hold their line while down a man.
Blues rookies make their mark
Wests Tigers fullback James Tedesco has been booting down the Origin door for a while and only an untimely injury stopped his Blues debut from coming six weeks earlier than it eventually did. It may not have been a stunning, take-the-world-by-storm, match-winning debut but it was pretty special: a match-high 258 metres and a match equal-high five tackle busts. Queensland clearly did their homework on him because he popped up on both sides in attack with some searing runs without quite breaking through – until his long-range last-gasp line break that almost finished in him scoring the match-winning try (before Michael Jennings scored it a couple of plays later).
Impressive Game Two debutant Tyson Frizell had another outstanding game and made it two tries in two Origins with his powerful first-half run backing up Paul Gallen's offload. Fellow second gamer Jack Bird made an impact once he was injected for injured mate Josh Dugan in the final half hour. Debutant Wade Graham had some nice touches and showed good awareness to toe ahead for Andrew Fifita's second-half try.
A finish for the ages as Gal goes out a winner
A 75th-minute try to Darius Boyd after Josh Mansour misjudged a towering Cronk bomb looked to put the seal on yet another match of heartbreak and missed opportunities for NSW in a series (if not decade) full of them. But this time the script had one final turn. A nice Moylan pass – one of many in a match where he was for the most part very good in attack – sent Tedesco on a long-range run downfield with under two minutes to play. The desperate Maroons defence somehow, against the odds, pulled the Wests Tigers speedster up just short of the line. But a quick play the ball kept the momentum alive. However a wild pass behind the line looked to snuff it out. Outgoing skipper Gallen lifted it off the ground and handed it to one of the fastest men on the field in Michael Jennings, who showed good awareness to abandon the left-side shift to jag back infield and burst through to plant the ball down and steal the victory. The try put the Blues up 16-14 on full-time so with the success of the conversion purely academic, Gallen was handed the kicking tee. To the delight of the 61,267 fans in attendance, the ball glided between the sticks.
This article first appeared on NRL.com
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