Hero bags hat- trick
NO Johnathan worries.
The Cowboys champion was watching his Origin swan song from the stands, but it was a less celebrated boy from Townsville who became an overnight Maroons hero in last night’s 22- 6 series- clinching win at Suncorp Stadium.
Townsville junior Valentine Holmes bagged a hat- trick in his second Origin game to break Blues hearts and continue a Queensland dynasty which threatened to end after they were dominated for most of the first two games.
They’ve formed a close friendship off the field – and on it, the left edge partnership of Holmes and Cowboys star Michael Morgan isn’t too shabby either.
The Townsville duo sparked a dominant Maroons first half which ensured they won their 11th series in 12 years.
Holmes scored twice in the first half but it was his secondhalf piece of magic that will go down in Origin folklore.
Five- eighth Cameron Munster, who put together one of the most brilliant displays on debut ever, threw a cut- out pass to Holmes which he dragged in one- handed to score in the corner.
Melbourne Storm “big three” Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk were superb.
Slater and Cronk may yet join Thurston in Origin retirement. If it was their swan song, they exited Origin in style.
Morgan’s move to centre was billed as a gamble.
But Queensland coach Kevin Walters hit the jackpot when the Cowboys star offloaded inside to Holmes for the first try after 15 minutes.
Walters’ decision to start Storm youngster Munster at five- eighth over Morgan was justified as the right call.
The 22- year- old was Thurston, no bril- liant – thriving in the same “spine” he plays in at Melbourne by setting up two tries, and his running game was a constant threat.
Smith admitted he wasn’t happy with his form in the first two games but without Thurston, he was the architect behind a superb Maroons attacking display in the opening half.
Queensland played far more expansively than the first two games, attacking both edges instead of the middle where the Blues have thrived.
The Maroons looked slow the first two games, but their speed in attack and defence in the first half shocked the Blues.
Holmes scored his second try in the 27th minute off a tracer bullet cross- field kick from Cronk, and could have had three by halftime had Smith not proven he’s human by failing to pass to him when he was unmarked.
The Blues made them pay not long after when Dugan plucked a James Maloney bomb out of the air to score under the posts. But Holmes’ class and a Jarrod Wallace try set up by Munster sealed victory for Queensland.
After dominating the majority of the first two games, this was supposed to the Blues’ best chance to stop the rot.
With Queensland missing Thurston, who watched the game with his busted shoulder in a sling from the coach’s box, Matt Scott, Greg Inglis and Darius Boyd, it was meant to be maligned Blues halfback Mitchell Pearce’s chance at redemption.
The Blues have not won a series- deciding Origin III since 2005, over 1400 days ago, and Pearce is yet to win an Origin series in his long career.