Queensland master NSW to retain Origin series
Winger Valentine Holmes scored a hat-trick of tries as Queensland dominated New South Wales to win Australia’s State of Origin rugby league series decider 22-6 in Brisbane yesterday. The Maroons fought back from losing the opening game of the series 28-4 to master the Blues four tries to one for their 11th win in the last 12 interstate series. It was a spirited performance from Queensland, who once again proved superior over NSW despite missing injured Test stars Greg Inglis, Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott and Darius Boyd.
But in their absence a new breed stepped up with winger Dane Gagai named man of the series and debutant Cameron Munster ably deputising for Thurston at stand-off in the final game. In an emotional aftermath to the victory Thurston, who injured his shoulder in the second game and kicked the winning goal in the final minute, lifted the Origin shield with skipper Cameron Smith on the winners’ dias.
“That’s a pretty big win for Queensland, we’ve had so many injuries, not just coming into the series but during it... gee, that was one helluva game,” Queensland fullback Billy Slater said. The Maroons were carried to victory by the Melbourne Storm club ‘spine’ of Smith at hooker along with his fellow Storm teammates Cooper Cronk at scrum-half, Munster at stand-off and Slater at fullback along with Will Chambers in the centres.
Queensland took charge in the first half and could have been more than 12-0 ahead at halftime. Winger Holmes scored both of the Maroons tries, going over for his first in the 15th minute after strong work from Slater and Michael Morgan. Cronk had a try disallowed when Brett Morris dislodged the ball from his grasp as he dived for the try-line. Cronk set up Holmes’s second try with a pinpoint flat kick to the left wing and an unguarded Holmes to score after 26 minutes.
The Maroons should have scored again nearing half-time after replacement forward Tim Glasby took play inside the Blues quarter with the defence back-pedalling.
But Smith missed a try-scoring opportunity when he took the wrong option and Holmes was denied a first-half hat-trick of tries. The Blues pulled back to trail by six points when Josh Dugan plucked a high kick out of the air early in the second half. But it proved a false dawn with the Maroons wrapping it up with two more tries to Holmes and prop Jarrod Wallace, with Munster having a hand in both tries.
Man of the match Smith led the Maroons magnificently and was a danger with his darts from dummy half. —AFP