The Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues lost the Ampol State of Origin decider 20-14 to Queensland after a gutsy performance that saw them starved of possession, on the wrong end of the tackle count, denied a penalty try and without captain James Tedesco for most of the match.
Tedesco only lasted 20 minutes before he copped an accidental knee to the head from Queensland prop Josh Papalii. He was assisted from the field where he failed his HIA and took no further part in the match.
He wasn’t the only casualty for the Blues with five-eighth Cody Walker also being taken from the field via medicab late in the second half after a heavy knock.
NSW trailed at one stage by 20-6 in the second half but dug deep to fight their way back and close the gap to 20-14 with five minutes still to play.
Winger Josh Addo-Carr looked a chance of scoring after chasing down an Isaah Yeo kick but he was taken out by Maroons fullback Corey Allan on the chase. Allan was sin binned for a professional foul but the video referee ruled Addo-Carr was too far out to award a penalty try.
It is the first time Queensland has got their hands back on the Origin Shield since 2017 and NSW will rue not turning in a better performance in Game One which they lost 18-14 in Adelaide. They turned in a much better performance to win 34-10 in Sydney but were on the back foot again tonight.
NSW was up against it in the first half with Queensland dominating possession 62% to 38% while the Blues did a mountain of work in defence after making 210 tackles compared to the Maroons (150). The Blues saw more ball in the second half but still finished on the wrong end for possession (57% to 43%) and the tackle count (330 to 373).
Blues lock Jake Trbojevic was a standout after playing 80 minutes for 98 metres and making 54 tackles with no misses, backrower Angus Crichton ran for 149 metres and made 39 tackles, while Junior Paulo ran for 110 metres, made 16 tackles and came up with four offloads.
The Maroons welcomed back Cameron Munster back into the team after he was ruled out early in Game Two with concussion and it didn’t take him long to have an impact.
After the Blues conceded a penalty, Munster combined with Corey Allan to send winger Valentine Holmes over in the corner. Holmes landed the sideline conversion for a 6-0 lead.
The Blues were under siege but Payne Haas showed a clean set of hands on his own line to defuse a Jake Friend kick and save another potentially dangerous situation.
A relieving penalty for the Blues put them on the front foot and they took full advantage when a kick from Nathan Cleary was dropped cold by Allan.
Maroons halfback Daly Cherry-Evans, who was in an offside position, didn’t dive on the loose ball and Tedesco pounced on the scraps to grab a much-needed try. Cleary converted and the Blues had closed the gap at 6-all.
The complexion of the match changed when Tedesco was forced from the field which saw Clint Gutherson shift to fullback and Isaah Yeo come off the bench to fill in at centre.
Cleary did give the team another opportunity with a booming 40/20 kick. Unfortunately, the Blues were unable to capitalise and the score remained deadlocked.
Addo-Carr did well to save a certain try when he pushed Holmes into touch but the Blues had no answer when Munster got involved again.
After putting his team in a prime position with a couple of telling kicks, he put another one through into wide open spaces for winger Edrick Lee to grab and score. Holmes added the extras to put the Maroons in front 12-6 at halftime.
Queensland extended their lead to 14-6 after Tyson Frizell was penalised for accidental offside and they increased their lead to 20-6 after Harry Grant scored from dummy-half and Holmes added the conversion.
The Blues finally got a couple of penalties to put themselves in a prime attacking position and they duly saluted when Walker combined with Gutherson to put Daniel Tupou over in the corner.
Cleary landed the conversion and a penalty goal a short time later to reduce the margin to 20-14 and set up a grandstand finish but unfortunately the Blues couldn’t capitalise.