With the State of Origin series poised at all square going into the deciding game at the ANZ Stadium, the anticipation had reached fever pitch ahead of kick-off. Queensland won the opening game in Brisbane by 18-14, but a big reversal eihgteen days ago in Perth saw New South Wales storm to a 38-6 win.
New South Wales had the advantage of momentum, and a partisan crowd, and few could see past the Blues repeating their 2-1 series win from 2018, to make it two series wins in the last two competitions. But history was on Queensland’s side who had a far better record at emerging victorious from deciders.
Queensland’s Kevin Walters had Moses Mbye and debutant Ethan Lowe in his side, while Brad Fittler had tweaked his NSW line up with positional changes meaning a different starting thirteen.
It was a frenetic start to the game with the opening stages played at high speed. When Queensland held on a little too long in the tackle after five minutes James Maloney slotted over the penalty goal to give the Blues the lead.
On fifteen Queensland registered the first try of the game when Felise Kaufusi won the race to ground a pinpoint Corey Norman grubber kick by the left upright. Ethan Lowe drilled the conversion between the uprights for a 6-2 lead. It was a far better start for the Maroons than they had managed in game two.
New South Wales conceeded a penalty for offside on twenty-eight minutes, Lowe accepting a simple penalty for an 8-2 lead, Queensland banishing the horrors of the second game.
A great break from Tedesco and a fast play the ball resulted in a penalty for the Blues who tapped and on tackle three substitute Paul Vaughan hit the line at speed and got the ball on the ground under a pile of tacklers. Maloney added the extras to toe the scores up at 8-8, the game was living up to all the pre-match hype.
Daly Cherry-Evans attempted a field goal from almost fifty metres with thirty second remaining on the clock but the ball went wide and the sides went into the break at 8-8, with very little to choose between them.
Michael Morgan took a ‘friendly fire’ elbow on forty-eight and was replaced by David Fifita.
A storming run from Tedesco on fifty-one saw the NSW full back power over from twenty metres the line to ground in the left corner, pushing the tacklers out of the way. Maloney converted from the touchline to put his side back into a six point lead.
New South Wales were starting to dominate possession and field position and on fifty-nine Damian Cook weaved his way through a broked Queensland defence to go in from forty metres with the Maroons unable to lay more than desperate finger tips on him. Maloney added the conversion from almost straight in front of the sticks for 20-8, Queensland with a mountain to climb.
A nail-biting finale was sent up when Josh McGuire bounced over the line on seventy-one to score for Queensland ten metres right of the uprights. Lowe added the conversion and once again the gap was down to six points.
A fantastic fightback ws complete on seventy-six as Josh Papalii broke through the NSW defence from twenty metres out after a Lowe chargedown had seen the Maroons advance downfield . Lowe added the conversion for 20-20 with two minutes left on the clock. It had been a classic origin.
Queensland opted not to go for the drop goal with ninety seconds remaining and with thirty seconds remaining James Tedesco completed a high speed running move down the right wing when he took a Blake Ferguson pass to slide over in the corner to seal the win and the series. As the hooter sounded Maloney added the conversion for a final score of 26-20.
Games of Rugby League don’t come much better than this. The result was in the balance right until the last seconds after an even first half and two dominant twenty minutes spells in the second. New South Wales hero was James Tedesco who picked up two crucial tries to seal the victory and take the series win for the second consecutive season.
NSW: Tedesco (2T), Ferguson, Trbojevic T, Wighton, Addo-Carr, Maloney (5G), Pearce, Saifiti, Cook (T), Klemmer, Cordner, Frizell, Trbojevic J. Subs: Finucane, Vaughan (T), Murray, Graham.
Queensland: Munster, Oates, Mbye, Chambers, Gagai, Norman, Cherry-Evans, Ofahengaue, Hunt, Papalii (T), Kaufusi (T), Lowe (4G), McGuire (T). Subs: Morgan, Welch, Glasby, Fifita.
Referees: Gerrard Sutton and Ashley Klein.
Attendance: 82,565 (sell out).