Hero bags hat- trick

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - JON TUXWORTH jonathon. tuxworth@ news. com. au MA­ROONS BLUES QUEENS­LAND MA­ROONS

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.

NSW's Boyd Cord­ner.

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