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With New South Wales having already wrapped up the series 2-0, a casual observer might have found little point in heading to Suncorp Stadium for the dead rubber. But then again, that assumes that there’s any such thing as a casual State of Origin observer.
Here are the ratings for the third State of Origin 2018.
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
Before the game began, New South Wales were talking up the prospect of a clean sweep of the series, which would be their first since the year 2000. And, as any numerical pedant from that era would not hesitate to tell you, that was way back in the twentieth century. Indeed, not only was it last century, it was also in the last millennium.
To achieve a bluewash for the first time in a thousand years? Quite the incentive for Brad Fittler’s Baby Blues.
Of course, the Queenslanders were looking to prevent this fate. One defeat is sloppy. Two is pretty poor. But to lose three times in one year to a team made entirely of babies? Embarrassing to say the least.
Following their previous defeats, Queensland had made a number of changes, most notably calling the most popular man in rugby league, Daly Cherry-Evans, into their team to replace Ben Hunt, who was relegated to the bench.
A bold call from the Queensland selectors, who have long maintained that one of the reasons for their dominance over the Blues this millennium has been their legendary loyalty to their players.
It’s almost as if they’d muddled up the cause and effect the whole time. As if perhaps rather than them winning because they’d stuck to the same team throughout the years, they’d instead been able to stick to that same team because they kept winning.
But no, that’s clearly sceptical Southerner Thinking™. Any maroon-clad supporter would tell you that, in between screaming ‘Queenslander’ at the top of their lungs.
With Ray Warren calling his ninetieth year of State of Origin football, the players needed they knew they had to come up with something special to keep the series fresh.
For too long, State of Origin has been held back by players stubbornly preferring to pass the ball primarily to their team-mates. But the first half of this match promised something different, something better, as Queensland and New South Wales exchanged tries via beautiful passes onto the chest of opposition wingers who’d then run ninety metres to score.
The State of Origin concept was born from a dead rubber trial way back in 1980. Is it too much to ask that the State of Intercept concept might be birthed in similar fashion?
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In between the pair of intercept tries, New South Wales trialled yet another variant on the basic State of Origin concept. They spent the entire first half utterly dominating Queensland in a game of TackleBall. Over and over again, they would tackle the home side as they pressed for a try. Over and over again, Queensland would be repelled for five tackles then fooled into trapping the Blues in their in goal, allowing them yet another set of six in defence.
It was carnage, with Queensland having no answer to the Blues’ resolute determination to never have possession of the football. Old timers could be heard reminiscing wistfully about the time that New South Wales were rumoured to once had hold of the ball, as their obnoxious grandchildren rolled their eyes in disbelief before turning their attention back to their hip-hop music or Nintendo Switch.
In the end it all proved too much for Queensland, who not only convincingly lost the game of TackleBall but also somehow went into the half-time break down 12-8 in the rugby league match after a late try to James Tedesco.
In the second half, however, New South Wales began to find more possession. This seemed to confuse them. So single-minded were they with their focus on tackling that Tariq Sims continued to do so even in attack, giving Valentine Holmes a chance to equalise with a try from the ensuing penalty.
Still, it’s a pretty sad state of affairs when Sims is penalised simply for doing something stupid. Or, for that matter, David Klemmer, who was equally focused on tripping the opposition while his team were deep in attack.
Before Klemmer’s superbly stupid effort, the Maroons had hit the front with a try to Cherry-Evans following a neat interchange of passing in the lead-up. There was a lot to like about the try. Not Cherry-Evans scoring it, of course. But most of the rest of it.
Finally, with Queensland up 18-12 in the rugby league match and fighting back valiantly in the TackleBall game as New South Wales pressed their line in the dying minutes, it was up to Holmes to break the deadlock.
He did so with the winning play in the State of Intercept game, hurling himself out of the defensive line to take a diving catch from a James Maloney pass.
Quite possibly three of the finest matches ever played simultaneously on a rugby league ground.