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Origin: A view from the top of Suncorp Stadium

Billy Slater and team mates are seen celebrating after Daly Cherry-Evans of Queensland scores a try during game three of the State of Origin series between the Queensland Maroons and the New South Wales Blues at Suncorp Stadium on July 11, 2018 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
Roar Guru
17th July, 2018
54

It’s been a week since Game 3 of Origin and with pretty much any discussion on the game revolving around post-match drama I figured I’d take the opportunity to remind everyone that a game did in fact take place prior to the awards ceremony.

Having watched the game live from the stadium as well as on replay, I noticed just how much doesn’t translate through the narrow view of the TV screen.

So here are a couple of my observations on the game, without a commentary team filtering my impressions and choppy camera work obscuring my view.

Suncorp Stadium
Honestly, is there a better stadium to watch rugby league? There’s not a bad seat in the house and even my vantage point, up in the third tier, didn’t feel very far from the action.

Words simply can’t do the atmosphere justice. It doesn’t get much better than Origin in Brisbane.

Billy Slater and Daly Cherry-Evans were the busiest players
The view from the stands gives a great perspective on plays as they are unfolding and those two were in everything, particularly in the first half.

DCE made sure he was always in position to get plays started and to create opportunities, and covered a hell of a lot of ground to do so. His efforts highlighted the direction and execution Queensland had been sorely missing in the first two games.

Slater, on the other hand, was constantly in support once the plays were on, pushing up, putting himself in gaps and always a genuine option around every opportunity.

Both were also vital in closing off NSW’s attack in the first half as well, directing their players and shutting down plays on the edges before they were even on. It wasn’t until NSW got a bit more room in the middle that they started making inroads.

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Speed
There was a clear difference in speed between the two sides. Surprisingly it wasn’t so much in attack that this advantaged the Blues, as it was in defence.

The difference in speed on the edges meant that NSW was able to quickly scramble, shutting down the breaks the Maroons did create. Having the luxury of speed also meant that wingers rushing in to stop plays before they got to the edges was a lot less risky, and with Queensland spreading the ball wide early in the count, this gave the Blues edges time and space to chase Queensland down if they did break through.

All this went a long way to ensuring that Queensland’s dominance in the first half didn’t translate into a blow-out on the scoreboard.

NSW’s plan for Slater
NSW had clearly done their homework on the retiring champion, which was not as apparent on TV.

Whenever a kick would go through, whichever Blues half was closest would ensure that Slater’s run was, well, significantly longer (see the 62nd minute for one example).

While this did not stop the multiple repeat sets, it certainly helped keep NSW within striking distance while Queensland enjoyed the dominance of possession in the first half, even if it did lead to a sin bin at one point.

That first half
It’s hard to do justice to just how in control Queensland were for the opening 30 minutes. While it was certainly came though the TV coverage, sitting in the stands, with eyes fixed on the goalline at the opposite end of the field made it very real.

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NSW have rightly been praised for keeping Queensland to six during that period of dominance, but it came at a cost. The Blues were forced to use up valuable interchanges much earlier than they intended and towards the end of half, their edges were starting to look a bit ragged. The Blues were only able to keep it up for so long and had Queensland persisted with their patient but relentless attack, the defence was sure to crack eventually.

But, yet again in a trend that dogged the Maroons all series, they went away from what was working at the 30-minute mark, with the injection of another playmaker, and completely different attacking structures, which invited NSW back into the match.

What did you take away from the game that hasn’t made the post-match news?