Queensland avoid State of Origin clean sweep with game-three win over NSW

, Queensland avoid State of Origin clean sweep with game-three win over NSW, The Nzuchi Times Guardian

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.

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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.

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