One of the great State of Origin upsets is complete after Queensland stunned NSW 20-14 in an epic decider at Suncorp Stadium last night, Wednesday 18 November.
Dubbed the ‘worst Queensland team in 40 years’ by some in the media, the Maroons proved the critics wrong with a typically stirring performance in front of the world’s largest sports crowd since COVID struck, 49,155.
After being knocked out early in Game II, Cameron Munster was the star for Queensland and was rightly awarded the Wally Lewis Medal as the man of the series.
Queensland were forced into a major reshuffle for Game III, but it had immediate effect with debutant Corey Allan finding Valentine Holmes in the corner for the first try of the match in just the third minute.
Allan’s high was short lived though, after he dropped a simple catch in the in-goal area that allowed James Tedesco to pounce and level the scores up at 6-6 after an action-packed opening 10 minutes.
Tedesco’s night came to an unfortunate end in just the 20th minute, after being knocked out from an accidental knee from Josh Papalii.
The game continued to be played at a frantic pace, but no side could score until the 36th minute when Munster weaved his magic.
After being rushed on the last tackle near halfway, Munster put through a grubber which he regathered himself before putting through another kick that Daniel Tupou failed to collect to set Queensland up with a new set just one metre out. With the NSW defence out of position, Munster put through another kick to a wide open Brenko Lee who knocked the ball back to Edrick Lee who crossed to give Queensland a 12-6 lead at the break.
Queensland entered half time with plenty of momentum and continued that on early in the second half, with Harry Grant looking like a veteran in his first Origin appearance.
Despite dominating possession, Queensland were struggling to crack the tough NSW defence but were gifted a penalty goal after Tyson Frizell was caught offside to extend their lead to 14-6 after 58 minutes.
Then just five minutes later, Grant burrowed under a couple of tacklers to just get the ball down on the line to take the score to 20-6 and have Queensland in control of the series.
The momentum in State of Origin can change very quickly though, and NSW hit back immediately through Tupou to bring the score back to 20-12 with 14 minutes left.
Holmes had the chance to seal the game for Queensland after some brilliant lead up work from Allan, but he dropped the ball over the line.
NSW then kicked a penalty goal to bring them within a converted try before the most controversial moment of the match.
With just three minutes remaining and NSW in desperate need of a try, Isaah Yeo put through a grubber which saw a flying Josh Addo-Carr get to first and put through another kick but was then taken out of play from Allan which denied him the chance to score.
Addo-Carr was clearly in the box seat to regain the ball and score but given the close proximity of the chasing Queensland players, the video referee didn’t award a penalty try and instead sent Allan to the sin bin for the remainder of the match.
NSW had all the ball in the dying minutes but couldn’t come up with a try to push the match into golden point as Queensland celebrated a famous 2-1 series victory.
Papalii was good early for Queensland, racking up 90 metres and creating some second phase play with three offloads, while his Raiders teammate Jack Wighton was largely ineffective for NSW at centre as he struggled to impose his will on the game in an unfamiliar position.
Raider Dunamis Lui was also a part of the winning Queensland squad, featuring in Game II before being relegated to 18th man for the decider.
The win was particularly sweet for Queensland with an excited Munster dropping an F-bomb in his speech for winning the Wally Lewis Medal, while captain Daly Cherry-Evans had the perfect response to their critics.
“On behalf of the worst ever Queensland team, thank you very much,” a smiling Cherry-Evans said as he walked over to raise the Origin shield. The perfect mic drop.