The Queensland Maroons have won one of the most tense and entertaining games in recent memory, taking out an 18-12 thriller in Game 3 of State of Origin over the New South Wales Blues.
More Origin 3
» Dead rubber? Game 3 proved there’s no such thing in Origin
» Seven talking points from Origin 3
» Queensland Maroons player ratings: Game 3
» NSW Blues player ratings: Game 3
» WATCH: All the highlights as Queensland send Billy Slater out a winner
There was drama, controversy, nerves and a fairytale farewell in what was far from just a dead rubber at Suncorp Stadium.
Here are seven talking points from Game 3.
The Slater farewell he deserved
Copping a solid shoulder as a welcoming gift in the opening exchanges aside, Billy Slater very nearly had the perfect start to his Origin finale.
How good would it have been for Billy Slater and the Queensland faithful if he didn’t bobble the pill into Nathan Cleary’s arms just three minutes in.
It would have and could have been the perfect start to the perfect farewell.
He was given the captaincy and just imagine the crowd reaction if the Bunker returned a green light on the opening try instead of red.
Every time Slater had the ball inside the New South Wales 20 he looked dangerous. He was zipping around the big boppas like it was 2004 again and threatening to add just one more try to his tally.
Half an hour into the contest the little legend was nearly in again, only being denied by the goal post and a contentious call on James Maloney who copped a deserved sin-binning for changing direction on Slater’s path to the in-goal area.
Even in the second half with his backs taking control on the left edge and causing havoc, he was able to keep himself busy, stay in the game and make positive contributions.
For the full 80 minutes, Slater was able to keep firing, keep fighting and keep entertaining only the way Slater can. Plus a man of the match and 100 per cent captaincy win record to boot.
A fitting captaincy, a fitting finale to a legendary career.
Valentine Holmes: The try-scoring gift that keeps on giving
It was mentioned in the talking points following Game 2 that Valentine Holmes could very realistically end his career as the most prolific try-scorer the game has ever seen.
This match has only made that seem more likely.
His Game 3 opener in the 11th minute and a peach of a one-handed corner finish in the 51st were his seventh and eighth tries respectively in just five Origin games.
The most impressive part about this, and the most fearsome for New South Wales, is his age.
The bloke is only 22!
The current record holder for an Origin career is Greg Inglis with 17 meat pies, that’s only nine ahead of Holmes currently.
So even if he slows down his rate of tries per game in the years to come, he has all the time in the world to breach Inglis’ mark and gallop along way into the distance.
Try-scoring aside for a second. How about that intercept!
In the dying moments with the game on the line he pulls off a play like that after already scoring two tries he pulls that off.
30 per cent possession = Halftime lead?
No idea how this happened.
What was possibly the most dominant half of football in recent memory, Queensland barely gave the Blues an inch in 36 minutes of power.
They had a near-laughable amount of possession and field position. They dominated the penalty count, forced five line drop outs, were up a man for nine minutes and 44 seconds and the Blues were forced to make nearly 80 more tackles in just 40 minutes.
Yet still went into the sheds at the break down by four points. How!?
Two meat pies in the final three minutes was a devastating nail in the Maroons’ 2018 series coffin and they just never came back from it.
It was just as much grit and determination from the Blues to find a way to hang on than it was the Maroons choking with the halftime break in sight.
A new era of Blue? Let the dreaming begin!
Sport fans are a funny bunch.
Give them an inch of hope and they’ll take a mile. Take an inch from them and they’ll hate you for eternity.
New South Wales fans will take that inch, nay, that millimetre of hope that comes with a series win. A series win so rare that Blues fans just became accustomed to losing every year for over a decade.
But there is genuine reason for hope now.
Queensland with the tormenting “Big Four” all gone from the Origin arena, New South Wales with a hungry young side and a new age young coach behind them.
This is a recipe for success, or at least a little bit. More than the last 13 years anyway.
Even though they missed out on the rare series clean sweep, the Blues, like they did in the first half, showed that grit and determination to find a way on the board when they’re behind, to find a way to come out on top in those big moments throughout the series.
It’s a sign of any great side to be able to fight and win when the chips are down. They were beaten by a better side in Game 3 and their fitness gave up on them even with 20 minutes to go.
Despite the loss, New South Wales will take all the momentum and confidence into next year with a fresh new side against a changing of the guard and an era of the unknown for the Maroons.
Has Cherry-Evans warranted a return from exile?
One of the most polarising players of this generation, Daly Cherry-Evans was finally welcomed back into the Queensland setup for the first time since 2015.
The playmaker has had a rough relationship with Queensland in the last few years and the Maroons faithful certainly know about it too.
Who can forget the infamous Titans backflip that saw him booed into next century when playing in Brisbane or the Gold Coast for a couple of years.
The fans turned on him ala New South Wales and Mitch Pearce for his less than stellar performances on his leg of games between 2013-2015.
So does he deserve to take the reins from Cooper Cronk? Is he a better option than Ben Hunt as the No. 7 for the next few years?
He got his name on the board, scoring a key try in the second half and although it was more of a support play and a 30-metre untouched run to the line. He was still there. He was still aware enough to make an impact on the game.
There are plenty of young halfbacks chomping at the bit to get their shot at Origin level and Cherry-Evans has his work cut out for him to recover the lost faith of the Queensland fans, coaches and players, but he can make it happen.
There were some small signs of the potential he’s been touted to have for nearly a decade now. The man just has to find a way to extract that potential and turn it into big game performances.
Penalty try in Game 2, no penalty try in Game 3
There are points for and against and arguments will run well through the week between fans on opposite sides of the Tweed.
In Game 2, New South Wales were awarded a penalty try for a man being taken out off the ball.
In Game 3, Queensland were awarded a one-man advantage for 10 minutes, but no try for, you guessed it, a man being taken out off the ball.
To be fair, the situation was handled well by referee Gerard Sutton despite Boyd Cornder’s best argument against the fact.
The decision in the second outing in Sydney arguably changed the tides of not only that game, but the result of the whole series and a changing of eras.
While the decision was most likely the right one, if there’s anything rugby league fans like to jump all over its referee controversy, and there’s no doubt Queensland fans will be calling foul on consistency for this one.
Is Kevin Walters a bad coach? Or did Big Mal just know when to get out?
You have to feel for Kevvy Walters. He came into the gig with possibly the greatest side of all time but has now lost just the second Origin series for Queensland since 2005.
While many might be quick to point fingers, take a second to remember Mal Menginga.
The man changed the course of rugby league history and left his mark on the Origin arena nearly more as a coach than player.
Some were surprised when the former politician of five minutes left the coaching role, but it looks to have been a masterstroke for his own fortune.
Just before the big names left, Mal left.
So it didn’t quite look like he was abandoning a sinking ship, but giving another coach a chance to shine.
It appears he was abandoning that ship and Walters has been given the steering wheel in rough seas.
He’s not a bad coach, just a victim of poor timing and a changing of the guard.