Queensland are on the brink of a monumental upset State of Origin series win, taking a 12-6 lead into half time in Game 3.
But the big story from the first is the game-ending head injury to Blues fullback James Tedesco.
A penalty against Angus Crichton proved to be the fire-starter early for the Maroons, as they used the territory gain to score the game’s first try. They dared to play for it on the last tackle, forcing it out wide for Origin specialist Valentine Holmes to dive over in the corner.
But fortune flipped on its head soon after, with the Maroons making an absolute meal of a poor Nathan Cleary kick to gift the Blues an equaliser. The Penrith halfback’s kick was too far deep into the in-goal area, but new fullback Corey Allan fumbled it in midair, before an offside Daly Cherry-Evans avoiding picking the ball up, allowing James Tedesco to sneak in and ground the ball right under Cherry-Evans’ nose.
It threatened to unravel for Queensland from there, with Cameron Munster’s ensuing kick-off sailing emphatically out of bounds. The Maroons defended stoutly and then managed to get three consecutive sets close to the NSW try line, but then gave away a penalty as soon as the Blues got possession back.
Controversy struck at the 20-minute mark, with James Tedesco coming off for a Head Injury Assessment – which he would later fail – after copping an accidental knee to the head from Josh Papalii – but it was Jai Arrow’s carry-on while Tedesco was clearly injured that earned him widespread scorn.
From there, the Maroons dominated territory, virtually parking the bus inside NSW territory – but they weren’t able to convert it on the scoreboard. Nathan Cleary gave the Blues a chance late with one of the all-time 40/20 kicks, but they too couldn’t convert.
Valentine Holmes had a chance to cross for his second in the 35th minute, but Allan’s pass to the wing was slightly behind him and his juggle allowed Josh Addo-Carr to catch-up and force him into touch.
But the Maroons would get their second just before the break. A sublime sequence from Cam Munster, who kicked, regathered his own kick and then kicked again, forced Daniel Tupou into an error on his own try line. Munster then kicked across field to two wide-open teammates, with Edrick Lee gathering after an initial bounce back and getting past the two Blues defenders far too easily.
Queensland Maroons – 12
NSW Blues – 6
Maroons: Holmes (4′), E. Lee (37′)
Blues: Tedesco (9′)
Maroons: Holmes 2/2 (6′, 39′)
Blues: Cleary 1/1 (10′)