The Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues have claimed a 2-1 series victory to regain the Ampol State of Origin Shield but were unable to pull off a clean sweep after going down 20-18 to the Queensland Maroons in Game Three at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast.
NSW had already wrapped up the series heading into tonight after record-breaking performances in Townsville and Brisbane and were looking to become the first Blues team in 21 years to claim a series 3-0 and the first ever in Origin history to win three consecutive games in Queensland.
The match was a good, old-fashioned Origin arm wrestle that went down to the wire with centre Latrell Mitchell bravely stepping up to take a penalty shot from the halfway line only for it to fall agonisingly short.
“I think my shorts were a bit tight, I don’t know, but everyone dreams of doing that kick and it is what it is,” Mitchell said.
“It’s been a long road to get here, and a lot of ups and downs, but I love pulling this jersey on, I pull it on with pride and every time I play, I enjoy it.
“Now I know what it takes to be a Blue and pulling that jersey on means everything in the world.”
Blues centre Tom Trbojevic, who was named the Wally Lewis Medallist as Player of the Series, said it had been unfortunate they hadn’t been able to complete the clean sweep.
“It’s obviously nice to win the series but disappointing about tonight,” Trbojevic said.
“There was a period in that game we didn’t have too much footy, couldn’t win the field position and they capitalised but we still had a chance to win the game late and we just couldn’t do it.
“It’s been awesome to come in here and win the first two games like we did. The goal was always to win the series and we did that. We’ve built some really good mateship here and it’s a disappointing way to end it.”
The Maroons started the match with the advantage for the first time in the series after being awarded a penalty in their opening red zone attack – Valentine Holmes adding the two points.
On the return kick-off it was Cameron Murray making a one-on-one steal that saw the Blues on the attack, but they couldn’t get over the line after Jack Wighton was deemed offside on a last-tackle kick.
However, NSW would inevitably go back to the left edge on their next attempt for a much-needed result.
At the stroke of ten minutes the Blues put themselves onto the scoresheet when Wighton handed early ball to a fleet-footed Mitchell, who found space infield to score under the posts. He proceeded to convert his own try for a 6-2 lead.
Within minutes Queensland looked to have found the lead again through Holmes, but the try was disallowed after a knock-on in the act of tackling NSW No.7 Mitchell Moses.
The Maroons had another attacking opportunity soon after, and they made no mistake turning it into points. Five-eighth Cameron Munster scooted out of dummy-half from the 40-metre line and found Tino Fa’asuamaleaui in a gap with debutant Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow backing up for the try.
NSW turned the momentum midway through the first half as Murray and Trbojevic drove Munster into touch as he left the in-goal area, yet the Blues were unable to capitalise due to an error early in the set.
The remainder of the half continued with no more points scored and Queensland ahead 8-6, but it proved a strong defensive effort by NSW as the Maroons had the greater share of possession.
Winger Brian To’o was one of the standouts throughout that period as Queensland peppered his corner of the field on multiple occasions for no success.
The Blues immediately came out firing in the second half when Moses kicked to the sky from the halfway line before a flying Josh Addo-Carr tackled an unsuspecting Tabuai-Fidow to force a goal-line dropout.
After errors from both sides, NSW earned another full set from ten metres out and a chance to hit the front for a second time.
In the 49th minute Wighton was able to regain the lead close to line, accelerating into a gap on the left side created by a well-executed decoy from second-rower Tariq Sims.
The Queenslanders wouldn’t be overwhelmed, however, as they went on to score the next two four-pointers through hooker Ben Hunt. Cherry-Evans converted both to put his side in front 20-12.
The Blues got back into the contest with 12 minutes left through debutant Api Koroisau, chasing down a Moses grubber and snatching the ball to score.
Behind 20-18, NSW had one more opportunity to level the scores in the final two minutes after electing to take the points from a penalty just over halfway. It was not to be after Mitchell’s long-distance attempt fell just short of the crossbar.