The Maroons spoiled the Blues whitewash party in State of Origin game three with a stirring performance with their backs against the wall. The Inner Sanctum takes a look at the five biggest talking points out of the series finale.
No such thing as a dead rubber
With the series decided, and New South Wales putting on such a dominant display through the first two games of the series, many questioned what was left to play for.
Talk of that was quickly quashed however, as both teams attacked the contest with a ferocity unrivalled in the first two games. There was even plenty of niggle as the two sides tussled on more than one occasion.
The Maroons were desperate to avoid the whitewash and played like a team with everything to lose. While this Blues outfit wanted to be the first in over 20 years to win all three games of the series.
With the scars of the eight straight Maroons still lingering over the Blues, and the grit and determination of Queensland when carry the underdog tag, there will be no such thing as a dead rubber for many years to come.
Maroons attack had more bite with completed spine
The Maroons spine was tested this series. Mainly with the absence of fist choice fullback Kalyn Ponga and hooker Harry Grant.
In the first two games the Maroons struggled to penetrate the Blues rigid defence, with a clear lack pace out of the backfield and at dummy half.
Whilst Ponga returned for game three, Grant was still unavailable. But a man of the match performance from stand in Ben Hunt proved to be the difference.
Ponga ran for 182 metres in his 15 runs and looked to cut across the blues defence trying to coerce their defenders out of position.
While Hunt scored two tries and tackled viscously, racking up 41, a few of which were deep in the Maroons defence.
The Maroons will be hoping that Ponga can put his injury concerns behind him and suit up for all three games of next years series. While Hunt has reposed the question as to who should be filling out the number nine jersey in next years series.
Where was this when the Maroons needed it?
Whilst the inclusion of Ponga was pivotal to the teams victory, there were other players who stood up despite playing at least one other game in the series.
The Maroons forward pack had come under scrutiny so far this series but stood up in a major way for this game. Josh Papalii, Kurt Capewell, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui and Moeaki Fotuaika all ran for over 100 metres and played the ball quickly allowing their outside backs to be more effective.
While halves pairing Cameron Munster and Daly Cherry-Evans also looked at their best tonight controlling the game through the middle third of the field as well as in the air, kicking for 272 and 308 metres respectively.
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The absence of Cleary and Luai was evident
Before the series began many questioned whether or not the Blues would go for the established partnership of Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai or pick the best available talent to fill out the number six jersey. Luai won out in the end, and the pair’s synergy wasn’t appreciated until it was gone.
With the duo forced out due to injury, the new halves pairing of Jack Wighton and Mitchell Moses took some time to kick into gear as did the Blues offence. They had the majority of the play in the first half but couldn’t quite link up like they did in games one and two.
The pairs absence has suggested that barring injury, they should be the long-term halves pairing for the Blues.
Errors and penalties cost the Blues
The Blues were terrific all series at ensuring their penalties or errors didn’t cost them points, but in game three they failed to do so as the Maroons took full advantage of repeat sets on their try line.
The Blues had their highest penalty and error count on Wednesday night with five and 11 respectively, which resulted in repeat sets for the Maroons and time for them to build their confidence.
Whilst it didn’t effect the result of the series, the Maroons can take a lot out of the way the capitalised on the back of the Blues mistakes.