State of Origin
Queensland spoiled New South Wales' plans of celebrating a State of Origin series clean sweep by claiming a 32-8 game-three victory at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane last night.
A lone first-half try to Queensland captain Cameron Smith saw the Maroons take a 6-2 lead at the break, while second-half scores to Billy Slater, Darius Boyd, Aidan Guerra and Cooper Cronk, and six goals to Johnathan Thurston helped seal the result. New South Wales were restricted to a lone try to Josh Dugan and two goals to Trent Hodkinson but were relegated to the role of spectators in the dying stages as the Queenslanders finished with a flourish.
The win restored some pride and goes some way to easing the Maroons' pain over losing their first series in nine years, while the Blues were left deflated as captain Paul Galen climbed onstage to collect the Origin shield with the taste of defeat still strong in his mouth.
Concerns the dead-rubber match would lack intensity were quickly dispelled with both teams showing a willingness to spread the ball in the early stages, while referees Ben Cummins and Gerald Sutton ensured play flowed freely by keeping the defence back a generous 10 metres.
Queensland asserted their dominance through their big men, with back-rowers Sam Thaiday, Guerra and Corey Parker particularly effective at getting over the advantage line and offloading, while wider out centre Greg Inglis threatened with every touch.
Despite dominating possession and creating seemingly countless try-scoring chances, the Maroons were denied time and again by miraculous Blues defence.
It was against the run of play when a late challenge from Ben Te'o on New South Wales halfback Trent Hodkinson allowed the No 7 to kick the Blues to a 2-0 lead after 24 minutes.
The Maroons were undeterred, and four more repeat sets allowed them further chances but the Blues continued to turn up when it mattered.
Both Boyd and Inglis were held up ingoal, while only a desperate dive from Daniel Tupou prevented a chasing Will Chambers from sniffing out a try.
The arrival of Queensland playmaker Daly Cherry-Evans after half an hour proved decisive when he sliced through and toed the ball ahead for captain Cameron Smith to collect and score, before Thurston converted to give them a four-point advantage at halftime.
The home side looked energetic after the break and took just four minutes to extend their lead when Justin Hodges' flat pass put Billy Slater over.
The Maroons then held the ball for three more consecutive sets but were restricted to a Thurston penalty after Greg Bird was penalised for a dangerous tackle on club teammate Nate Myles.
Just when it looked like Queensland were safe a well worked decoy play saw Hodkinson provide the last pass for Josh Dugan's try, before kicking his second goal to leave them six behind.
A Jarryd Hayne bust on the next set put the Blues back on the front foot but from the next ruck the attack went left when it should have gone right and the chance was lost.
From there on the Maroons dictated play with Boyd crossing before Guerra and Cronk joined in the fun to ensure they ended the series in style.
Queensland 32 (Smith, Slater, Boyd, Guerra, Cronk tries; Thurston 5 cons; 1 pen)
New South Wales 8 (Dugan tries; Hodkinson 1 con; 1 pen)