Monday 18 December 2017 / 02:57 AM

ORIGIN III WRAP

NSW does a Queensland

The Blues pulled off a miracle finish that will sit just behind Mark Coyne in 1994, Mark McGaw in 1987, Tonie Carroll in 1998 and Dane Carlaw in 2002 in the annals of Origin history.

After seemingly throwing away an unloseable game in the latter stages against a dog-tired Queensland side, NSW pulled a rabbit out of the hat as Blake Ferguson and James Tedesco broke clear, and Michael Jennings snatched the result with a hot-stepping run.

Paul Gallen slotted the obligatory after-the-siren conversion attempt for an 18-14 final scoreline, earning a fairytale farewell.

It was a euphoric result for the long-suffering Blues, but in truth they should have had it wrapped up far sooner. Enjoying a mammoth possession advantage, a huge penalty count in their favour and the rub of the green generally, the home side couldn’t capitalise – largely thanks to a dismal attacking game-plan that has crippled them all series, playing far too laterally.

They look destined to butcher it in familiar fashion when Darius Boyd scored after Josh Mansour fell over in the 75th minute, but managing to rescue the game from the fire may just be the turning point NSW have been desperately searching for.

The fire is back

After two of the most nondescript clashes imaginable, Game 3 was another reminder that there’s no such thing as a dead-rubber in Origin. It was physical and often spiteful – and, the cracking finish aside, by far the best game of the series.

Fifita is a lunatic

NSW has to cut Andrew Fifita loose for good after his brain explosion in the second half. It was a minor miracle his attack on Gavin Cooper – for dropping the ball on Matt Moylan – didn’t cost the Blues the game. That fact he said “no regrets” afterwards only underlines his moronic attitude. Fifita is a loose cannon who will never learn, and his talents that make him a star at club level are ineffectual in the Origin arena anyway.

Woeful refs

It was unquestionably one of the worst officiating performances in Origin history. The ridiculous sin-binning of Cooper Cronk for a ‘professional foul’, the 12-2 penalty count and the pathetic penalty against Greg Inglis for bracing himself for contact with Josh Dugan blotted the on-field refs performance. But how the hapless Bunker could come up with a try decision for Andrew Fifita when Michael Jennings was offside is beyond belief.

There is plenty of ambiguity surrounding the offside rules in these situations, but the video man’s explanation that Jennings’ actions had no effect on the play is just plain wrong. He was clearly chasing the ball and jostled with opposite number Justin O’Neill, slowing the defender down in a tight scramble for the pill. One of the Bunker’s worst in a wretched season.

Who are the bad winners, Gal?

Paul Gallen slammed the Maroons as “poor winners” in one final pre-match barb ahead of his last game, but his Blues showed a disgusting lack of respect by walking off to talk to members of the crowd while opposing skipper Cameron Smith was giving his victory speech.

NSW harps on about building a culture, but the petulance and lack of dignity in the way they conduct themselves – on this occasion, after the heat of the battle had died down – provides an insight to how the state has lost 10 of the last 11 series.

There’s no way you would see Nathan Hindmarsh, Danny Buderus, Mark Gasnier, Matt Cooper, Anthony Minichiello, or even tempestuous types like Willie Mason and Andrew Johns, carry on in such a manner.

The fact David Klemmer and Josh Jackson were more concerned with having a push-and-shove with Corey Parker after a teammate had scored one of the great Origin match-winners is a worrying indication of where the Blues’ priorities lie.

Poor winners, or poor losers?

Gallen’s comments about Queensland being poor winners may have been wide of the mark, but the Maroons certainly didn’t cover themselves in glory in defeat, with their most senior statesmen displaying a complete lack of humility post-match.

“I’ve been told Laurie Daley was walking down from his box (when the winning try was scored) – he thought the game was over too. Shows where they’re at,” Cameron Smith said in the sheds afterwards.

Johnathan Thurston was at his sulking worst as well, giving no credit to NSW for pulling off a late escape and instead waxing lyrical about how great his team is, before signing off with, “You know what, they had to win it in the 80th minute,” as his bottom lip hung dangerously close to the dressing-room floor.

Daley must go

The Blues’ win was effectively a happy accident for coach Laurie Daley, who inadvertently did everything possible to derail his team’s campaign with poor tactics and baffling selections. It was a series NSW so easily could have won, with aging Queensland – as gutsy and clinical as they were – showing their vulnerabilities in all three games. But Daley’s game-plan and line-ups stopped the Blues from getting the job done.

The Dylan Walker fiasco, the cat-and-mouse over who would play five-eighth (between a centre and a fullback, no less) in Game 3, picking others out of position, hanging on to too many underperforming stalwarts and giving in-form stars a debut too late in the piece should ensure Daley is passed over for someone with far more experience and acumen, such as Geoff Toovey, Ivan Cleary or Tim Sheens.

Sydney apathy

If there was ever an advertisement for a permanent shift to having one Origin at a neutral venue every year, it was the acres of empty seats at ANZ Stadium. Of course, a dead-rubber in Brisbane would still attract a sell-out crowd, but the appetite to fill the giant stadium at Homebush twice a year just isn’t there if the series isn’t still alive. Melbourne, Auckland, Perth, Tokyo, London…anywhere to avoid last night’s eyesore and lack of atmosphere.

Studs

NSW

Tyson Frizell: Made for Origin, powering over for his second barnstorming try in as many appearances and bending Queensland back all night.

James Maloney: When was the last time a NSW half kicked that well? Superb running the ball and opening up opportunities for others to cap a wonderful series.

James Tedesco: Lived up to the hype with a game-high 254 metres, threatening all night.

Aaron Woods: The Blues’ undisputed pack leader. His 142 metres was miles ahead of any other forward on the field.

Josh Jackson: Besides two glaring errors in quick succession in the second half, Jackson was a beast on both sides of the ball in the finest traditions of Hindmarsh and Clyde.

David Klemmer: Heaps of impact off the bench with 23 tackles and 12 runs for over 100 metres.

QUEENSLAND

Corey Oates: Led his team with 153 metres from 13 carries, a Vatuvei-like effort for a team under the pump throughout.

Darius Boyd: Beautiful hands to set up the first try, clutch effort to score what looked like was going to be the match-winner. Can’t have been far off the Wally Lewis Medal.

Johnathan Thurston: Not the usual Origin vintage from JT, but laid on two tries and was a terrier in defence.

Justin O’Neill: A typical Queensland effort in playing well above what everyone thought he was capable of. Brilliant in defence as the Maroons hung tough for long periods.

Cameron Smith: Outpointed Robbie Farah yet again and topped the tackle count. Deserving player of the series.

Josh McGuire: The prop made 40 tackles and 97 metres off the bench. Enough said.

Duds

NSW

Andrew Fifita: Idiot.

Matt Moylan: No shortage of guts, and he delivered a nice pass to put Blake Ferguson away in the dying stages, but he’s not the answer in the Blues’ halves. Struggled defending in the front-line and has a lot to learn playing as a flat first-receiver.

Blake Ferguson: That late break may have saved his Origin career. Otherwise made zero impact in any of the three games, besides flying off the handle at every opportunity.

James Tamou: Largely anonymous.

QUEENSLAND

Greg Inglis: Scored his 18th Origin try, but a bad miss on Ferguson cost Queensland the game. Still off the pace.

Sam Thaiday: Should be under the pump to hang onto his place next year. 15 tackles and six runs is a pathetic return from a senior forward in a team that was under so much possession pressure.

[YouTube – VAC 2016]

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About the author

Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

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