After butchering their opportunity to wrap up the series at home in Game 2, NSW has begun preparations to win just its third decider in Brisbane in 11 attempts.
Too Good Tuesday this week relives the Blues’ maiden Game 3 capture of the Origin shield north of the border, the 1994 decider.
NSW entered the clash with all the momentum following its authoritative 14-0 Game 2 success at the MCG, while Queensland banked on riding the emotion of Mal Meninga’s farewell in front of a sell-out home crowd at Lang Park – which had been renamed Suncorp Stadium under a sponsorship agreement with the QRL – to an upset victory.
Glenn Lazarus’ injury was tempered by the return of Ian Roberts for the Blues, and Steve Walters and Steve Renouf came back into the Maroons’ line-up. Ball-playing Canterbury backrower Jason Smith replaced the dumped Trevor Gillmeister, but his debut lasted just nine minutes following a controversial collision with Roberts, who was cited over the incident but subsequently cleared.
It quickly emerged there be no fairytale for Meninga as NSW rushed to an 18-0 lead after 33 minutes, courtesy of 40-metre intercept tries to Bradley Clyde and Brett Mullins either side of a magnificent solo effort by Laurie Daley. Queensland’s attack-at-all-costs approach had cost it dearly, but the giant deficit had now rendered that strategy a necessity – and it finally bore fruit in the shadows of halftime. Following a hectic passing movement, Kevin Walters grubbered and regathered to send bullish forward Andrew Gee over for the Maroons’ first points.
The Blues’ retiring legend Ben Elias – largely forgotten amid the hysteria of Meninga’s exit – snapped a field goal just after the break, and a Paul McGregor bust looked certain to produce another try. But Tim Brasher put down the inside pass and opposing No.1 Julian O’Neill weaved his way back to near halfway on the counterattack. On the ensuing play, Kevin Walters ran into space and offloaded brilliantly for Renouf to embark on a thrilling 40-metre sprint to the line, setting up a 19-12 scoreline with more than a quarter of the match remaining.
But just as another unlikely fight-back loomed, errors crept back into the Maroons’ play and Fittler slotted an additional one-pointer. The NSW centre scored a series-sealing try when a wayward Kevin Walters clipped Meninga’s outstretched fingertips and dropped into Fittler’s waiting hands. Elias capped a man-of-the-match swansong with another field goal in the dying minutes. While the 19-Origin hooker celebrated, it was a solemn departure for the revered Meninga – the last playing remnant of the concept’s inaugural match in 1980.
The back-to-back convincing losses effectively sealed coach Lewis’ fate, but Blues mentor Gould’s legacy was sealed as the first NSW coach to achieve three straight Origin series victories. The number of Queensland players decreased in the Kangaroo Tour squad for the third straight time – just eight Maroons were selected in the 28-man squad, reflecting the Blues’ ascendancy.
GAME THREE (State of Origin No.42), Suncorp Stadium, June 20
NEW SOUTH WALES 27 (Daley, Mullins, Clyde, Fittler tries; Brasher 4 goals; Elias 2, Fittler field goals) defeated QUEENSLAND 12 (Gee, Renouf tries; O’Neill 2 goals). Crowd: 40,665. Halftime: NSW 18-6. Goalkickers: Brasher (NSW) 4 from 5; O’Neill (Qld) 2 from 2. Referee: Bill Harrigan. Penalties: 3-all. Man of the Match: Ben Elias (NSW).
New South Wales: Tim Brasher, Andrew Ettingshausen, Brad Fittler, Paul McGregor, Brett Mullins, Laurie Daley (c), Ricky Stuart, Ian Roberts, Ben Elias, Paul Harragon, Paul Sironen, Dean Pay, Bradley Clyde. Interchange: Ken Nagas, Chris Johns, Brad Mackay, David Barnhill. Coach: Phil Gould.
Queensland: Julian O’Neill, Michael Hancock, Mal Meninga (c), Steve Renouf, Willie Carne, Kevin Walters, Allan Langer, Mark Hohn, Steve Walters, Darren Fritz, Billy Moore, Gary Larson, Jason Smith. Interchange: Mark Coyne, Darren Smith, Andrew Gee, Gorden Tallis. Coach: Wally Lewis.
GAME 3, 1994 – MATCH FACTS
-NSW achieved its highest Origin score (discounting its 30 points in the 1987 exhibition match), eclipsing the 24 points it scored in the second match of the 1986 series, while it was the Blues’ second-biggest victory in Origin history at the time.
-The Blues’ three field goals is a team record for an Origin match, while Elias remains the only player to pot two one-pointers in a game.
-Elias became the first player to be named man-of-the-match in their last appearance.
1994 SERIES FACTS
-The Blues’ success also represented the first time they had come from a game down to win a series.
-Queensland was out-scored by 25 points, beating its previous Origin series worst of 19 in 1992.
-The crowd average of 56,340 was a record for the first 20 Origin series.
-NSW became the first side to lead at halftime in all three matches of a series.