In the most epic footy decider of the decade, the all-powerful Queensland Maroons on Wednesday night secured their monumental sixth straight Origin series win with an entertaining 34 – 24 victory over the New South Wales Blues in 2011 State of Origin game three.
In front of a record-breaking 52,498 sea of Maroon fans that packed Suncorp Stadium to the rafters, the champion Queensland crew gave their instrumental skipper Darren Lockyer the farewell from Origin that the most-capped Origin player in history so much deserved with their authoritative six-tries-to-four win.
Donning the Maroon jersey for the 36th and final time on Wednesday night, Lockyer can bow out from representative football with his famous bald head held high thanks to an all-in effort from the superlative Queensland team.
It was the first time in 20 years that the Maroons sealed a series win in a decider at Lang Park, making for an even more memorable chapter in the Origin history books.
While Locky himself didn’t get a final Origin four-pointer to ice the cake, there was still plenty to celebrate both on the field and back in the dressing rooms with household names old and new scoring for Queensland including Greg Inglis, Sammy Thaiday, Cameron Smith, Jharal Yow Yeh and Billy Slater.
It was an embarrassing start for the Blues in Origin game three, who after much hype from their bullish captain Ricky Stuart looked flat and out-played allowing Queensland to cruise to a commanding 24 to nil lead with four unanswered tries in the opening 35 minutes.
First over was Greg Inglis in the 16th minute who capitalised on a masterful Johnathan Thurston kick followed by an easy four-pointer by a charging Sam Thaiday thanks to a deft pass from Slater, both converted by JT.
Greg Inglis was at double figure odds at Luxbet in the Origin first try-scorer markets, making the first four-pointer of the game real winner for punters!
Two more before the Blues had even opened their account had the Queenslanders cheering their hearts out.
The legendary Cameron Smith, tipped to take over captaincy from Locky and later named both man of the match and man of the series, getting over in the 31st minute from dummy-half.
Then Broncos flyer Jharal Yow Yeh crossed again just two minutes later after a Lockyer kick bounced off Blues fullback Minichiello’s legs and right into his arms giving the young gun his second try in the Origin arena.
Another two successful conversion attempts by JT and the Blues were staring down the barrel of a 24 to nil deficit.
With Queensland having dominated in both attack and defence, in the last five minutes of the first half they dropped their game just enough for New South to sneak in with two fast tries to give the Blues supporters a glimmer of hope before the break.
First over was fullback and Rooster’s veteran Anthony Minichiello in the 37th minute atoning for his earlier stuff-up by cleaning up a messy play after a horror kick from Soward went through four fumbling sets of Maroon hands before Luke Lewis clung on and passed to Minnie.
The Blues second came from Newcastle winger Akuila Uate who crossed right on the siren for his debut Origin try.
Jamie Soward, who seemed to be struggling with his ongoing hamstring injuries, converted the first but missed the second and Queensland headed to the sheds leading 24 – 10.
The second 40 minutes of the match began on a more even playing field.
Queensland’s brilliant fullback Billy Slater, who seemingly had a magnet on his chest having caught nearly every kick Soward sent his way, broke the arm-wrestle in the 65th minute after a time-honoured play from Lockyer and Thaiday.
Smith had to take over conversion duties after Thurston suffered a sickening knee injury earlier in the game when attempting a tackle on Blues prop Anthony Watmough.
JT’s exit from the game was the only sour note on Queensland’s big night and has put the NRL future of the Cowboys this season under a cloud of doubt.
Getting back to business without Thurston, the Maroons held strong and just four minutes after Slater’s effort big Greg bagged himself an Origin Game 3 double scoring in the 69th minute.
Again it was too little too late for New South Wales who posted the final points of the season with two tries inside the closing 10 minutes.
Jarryd Hayne got himself a rare eight-point try, Smith penalised and put on report for a sliding knee tackle in-goal allowing Soward back-to-back goals after the try.
With two minutes on the clock, Greg Bird scored a consolation try for the Blues, Soward converting again, but it did little to dint the pride of the supreme series winning Queensland squad.
As always, this year’s State of Origin impacts the NRL Telstra Premiership both good and bad.
With NRL Round 18 kicking off on Friday night, the Eels will take on the Tigers at Parramatta Stadium without Hayne and the Tigers are the early narrow favourites at $1.85 through Luxbet.
The other Friday night footy match sees the Titans travel to Mt Smart Stadium to play the Warriors, the Gold Coast possibly to have Mat Rogers back in the line up but are still the long-priced underdogs at $3.35 through Luxbet.
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