The New South Wales Blues have won the 2019 State of Origin series against the Queensland Maroons in Game 3, scoring a last-minute try to win a stunning series decider 26-20.
The Blues win back-to-back Origin series for the first time since 2005, turning around a sluggish first half to blitz the Maroons early in the second, and bouncing back from a late Maroons charge to score a thrilling try on the last play of the game.
Here are five talking points from Game 3.
More Origin 3
» NSW Blues player ratings
» Queensland Maroons player ratings
» WATCH: Match highlights as Blues seal epic series
» WATCH: James Tedesco ices victory with last-play winner
» WATCH: Kaufusi scores first try of Origin 3
Greatest game in Origin history?
The Queensland Maroons had an electric opening half hour of Game 3, with Cameron Munster and Josh Papalii the chief destroyers against a New South Wales side very slow out of the blocks.
The Blues were lucky to be in the game at the half time break, let alone tied at eight points apiece.
The Maroons were hard-hitting in defence and threatened the line in attack with a mountain of field position, keeping the Blues trapped down in their own half for the majority of the opening 40 minutes.
Just the one try felt like a lacklustre reward for their early dominance, a huge start to a series decider. They seemingly deserved more dessert than they were served.
It really came back to bite them.
I don’t know what New South Wales had with their oranges at half time, but they came back out a different team.
It took a few minutes to get to full steam but when they did, the Maroons simply had no answer.
The Blues were making line breaks left, right and centre. They were making a mockery of Queensland’s tiring forwards through the middle, barely needing to spread the ball wide as Damien Cook, James Tedesco and Cameron Murray tore holes through the defence up the guts.
Errors followed as Queensland struggled to contain the game and keep up with the pace of the home side.
New South Wales were able to reap the rewards of simply hanging on in the first half.
There would be yet another momentum swing in this crazy game.
A frenzied final ten minutes of play saw Queensland bridge the gap to just a single converted try late in the game, then equalise with three minutes to go barely two sets later.
Daly Cherry-Evans decided against a long-range field goal attempt with barely 90 seconds on the clock but the damage was done, the Blues had blown the series.
Or so we thought.
That field goal decision came back to haunt the Maroons.
With less than half a minute to go, Blake Ferguson somehow reeled the ball in on the right sideline, stayed in, then passed off to James Tedesco.
Tedesco had luck on his side, Moses Mbye literally falling over in front of him to gift Tedesco a free passage to the line and the series win.
A game for the ages. An all-time contest. A fitting end to the series.
Penalties. Lots of them, then none of them
Eight penalties inside the first 22 minutes. Twelve in the first half alone, which is four more than the entirety of Game 1 and just one fewer than the 13 that were blown in Game 2.
There’s nothing wrong with blowing penalties, it’s what makes up the majority of a referee’s job, but it was just too much without anything being done about it.
If you’re calling a dozen penalties in the first half, there should be a sin bin or two in there.
If they’re happening that frequently, there should be warnings given out to start with, then players sent to the bin afterwards, especially when both teams were giving away back-to-back penalties within the same set on more than one occassion.
There were enough infringements close to the try line as well to warrant the aforementioned warnings at the very least.
Ideally, the players don’t breach the rules to that extent, but if they do, they should be getting ten minutes for it, purely for the sheer amount that were being given away.
There’s just wasn’t enough consequence for either side for pushing the boundaries of the rulebook at such a constant rate.
The strange thing about all of this is that the second half was the polar opposite. Just two penalties in the second stanza.
Maybe the refs got a quiet word at the break to ease up a little. Maybe Fittler and Kevin Walters gave their players a spray about discipline.
Who knows. It was a bizarre contrast either way.
The Blues walk to the stadium
This isn’t a huge talking point but more of a ‘what the hell was that?’ kind of thing.
Seriously, they were walking and walking and walking… and walking!
It was some kind of tribute to the same walk taken by a College football team in the US, coming from outside the stadium along the longest stretch of blue carpet in known history.
It just looked a bit silly for the casual viewer. It also looked a bit silly for the dedicated viewer as well. Just a bit silly looking all around.
It only served to delay the kickoff further than it comically already is every single Origin, not to mention tire out the poor New South Wales players before they even got to the paddock.
An easy win for Queensland early on.
Not a great coaching strategy from Freddie Fittler on that one.
It likely depends on what side of the border you’re on as to your opinion on this one.
It was a game-changing moment.
Was Josh McGuire pushed over the line through momentum and a little nudge from the Blues defence? Or did that arm come back up off the turf for a cheeky little second dig?
The Bunker agrees with the former, but that won’t stop every man and their dog giving their own thoughts on it.
It was a huge moment late in the game. Turning an awkward looking deficit into a scoreline separated by just a single play.
It gave the Maroons a chance to steal a game, and the series, that the Blues looked to have wrapped up at that point.
It looked like McGuire lifted the arm but momentum was enough to negate that movement as a second attempt at the line.
Queensland scored just a few minutes later to equalise in a thrilling finish. The momentum they gathered from the McGuire meat pie carried over for Josh Papalii to cross the line.
An unfortunate part of contact sport; concussions aren’t a happy discussion topic for anyone.
With recent reports detailing the long-term health issues surrounding head injuries in rugby league and the NRL, in line with a similar study in the US, it’s become more and more uncomfortable to see them happen during a game, knowing in this day and age the repercussions that surround them.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, is something footy fans will be hearing a lot more about as time goes on.
Michael Morgan’s nasty collision with his teammate’s elbow early in the second half was a scary moment. He was out before he’d even hit the ground. The way he convulsed on the ground is enough to scare anyone watching it unfold.
In this instance, there was very little to nothing that could have been done about it. It was a freak accident, but every time someone is knocked out, the discussion surrounding contact and head injuries will only heat up.
And so it should; for the health of those playing the game, regardless of how much you might think penalising contact above the shoulders it takes away from the game.