Queensland avoid State of Origin clean sweep with game-three win over NSW
Queensland have restored some pride and dashed New South Wales’ hopes of a rare State of Origin clean sweep with a fiery 20-18 win on the Gold Coast.
Makeshift hooker Ben Hunt scored twice, Queensland full-back Kalyn Ponga was electric in his first game of the series and punches were thrown on the full-time siren as Paul Green’s under-pressure side breathed some late life into a series they had already meekly surrendered.
The Blues looked on track for their first series sweep since 2000 when Jack Wighton burst over for a 12-8 lead early in the second half at Cbus Super Stadium.
But Hunt, usually a halfback at NRL level, darted over from dummy-half then finished off a Ponga break as the Maroons pushed ahead by eight points.
Blues hooker Api Koroisau won the race to a Mitchell Moses grubber-kick though, before first-half try-scorer Latrell Mitchell missed a 50m penalty kick that would have levelled the scores with a minute to play.
A desperate Ponga lunge had earlier knocked down a pass from man-of-the-series Tom Trbojevic that would have led to a try and they showed similar desperation to snuff out the Blues’ last efforts in a well-overdue fighting performance from the hosts.
Queensland were more direct, their forwards more effective and with fullback Ponga floating out the back they at last had a presence in the series.
They had just one Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow try and a 8-6 half-time lead to show for it though, at one stage going eight straight sets on the Blues’ line without success.
Like in Brisbane’s Game II, Mitchell was a danger on both sides of the ball, strolling past Dane Gagai for the game’s first try then swiping a Daly Cherry-Evans pass out of the air to defuse another Queensland raid.
The late venue switch to the Gold Coast didn’t have the fortress feel of Suncorp Stadium, jeers greeting the hosts when they ran onto the ground in front of a near-capacity crowd of 26,307.
It didn’t deter Queensland though, who took their first lead of the series after an early penalty and in Tabuai-Fidow seemingly had an answer to Tom Trbojevic’s blinding speed on the flank.
After a 50-6 win in Townsville and a 26-0 shut-out in Brisbane, the Blues steadied and looked set to complete their whistlestop tour of Queensland with a more grinding victory.
Hunt had other ideas though to give first-time Queensland coach Paul Green some joy in a series dominated by unprecedented distractions.
Despite the loss it was still the biggest series margin win in Origin history, the Blues outscoring Queensland by 68 points to eclipse their 62-point margin set in 2000.
Valentine Holmes left the game at halftime with an apparent shoulder injury while Junior Paulo was placed on report after the fulltime scuffle.