New South Wales came into the deciding State of Origin 2020 game at the Suncorp Stadium in Sydney brimming with confidence after their big win last week which saw them level the series, but Maroons coach Wayne Bennet would have been telling his side all week that it was about just one game, the one now ahead of them.
Brad Fittler names the same seventeen that romped to victory last week, but there were five changed in the Queensland squad with Brenko Lee, Christian Welch, Corey Allan, Edrick Lee and Harry Grant all named.
A New South Wales win, strongly tipped by the bookies, would mean a third consecutive series win for the Blues, but should Queensland overcome the odds then they would make it four series wins in the last six and nine in the last twelve.
It was a stunning start for the Maroons with Valentine Holmes making the most of a powerplay on three minutes as he took a pass to the wing from Corey Allan and flew over in the corner to score an acrobatic try as three tacklers tried to get to him. Holmes converted with aplomb from the touchline for a 6-0 lead.
On nine minutes the Blues were level when Allan dropped a Nathan Cleary high kick and Daly Cherry-Evans took his time to collect the ball from an offside position with James Tedesco reaching round the Queensland half-back to get a hand on the ball and ground it on the line. Cleary added the conversion for 6-6, it was game on.
Tedesco lost the ball in a ferocious challenge on his own twenty with nineteen minutes on the clock, the inspirational NSW full back being assisted off the field after appearing to lose consciousness.
A Cleary 40-20 on the half-hour gave NSW a brilliant opportunity but they spilled the ball on the fourth tackle under the tackle from Lindsay Collins. Tempers boiled over in the aftermath as referee Gerard Sutton split the sides.
It had been a scrappy first half, neither side firing on all cylinders, but with four minutes remaining Edrick Lee collected a cross-field kick and went around the two wrong-footed tacklers to dive over for the four-pointer. Holmes added the conversion to give the Maroons a 12-6 interval lead.
Queensland bombed a try with four minutes on the second half clock when Dane Gagai failed to hold a pass and spilled the ball with the line begging.
The Maroons were dominating with set after set in the Blues twenty. The defence held firm and when awarded a penalty on fifty-seven they elected to kick the penalty, Holmes adding another two points for an eight-point lead.
On sixty-two the game was close to being won as Harry Grant ducked under a couple of tackles and stretched for the line to ground after a five-metre run. Holmes added the conversion for 20-6, the Maroons looking ‘home and hosed’.
NSW were stung into action and went on the offensive with Clinton Gutherson feeding Tupou who went over on the corner and improved the angle for Cleary by getting closer to the sticks. Cleary obliged with the boot, the lead back down to eight points with fourteen minutes on the clock.
Holmes bombed another QLD chance on seventy, losing the ball on the line when it was easier to score. The Blues went downfield after the error and after getting a penalty Cleary kicked the two to get NSW within six points with eight minutes remaining.
With three minutes remaining Corey Allen took out Josh Addo-Carr as he was chasing down his own kick and the Queensland full-back was sent to the benches to sit out the rest of the game. NSW played the ball, rather than kick the penalty, but the Maroons defence held firm as they secured a 20-14 win.
Queensland overcame the odds and the pundits to banish the memories of last weeks heavy loss and seal a first series win since 2017 for mastermind coach Wayne Bennett. Cameron Munster was inspirational for the Maroons as debut tries for two of their players sealed a historic win. After the craziest of seasons, the NRL gets a hard-earned rest until the 11th March 2021.
Queensland: Allan (SB on 77), Holmes (T, 4G), Gagai, Lee B, Lee E (T), Munster, Cherry-Evans, Welch, Friend, Papalii, Capewell, Kaufusi, Fa’asuamaleaui. Subs: Su’A, Grant (T), Collins, Arrow.
New South Wales: Tedesco (T), Tupou (T), Gutherson, Wighton, Addo-Carr, Walker, Cleary (3G), Saifiti, Cook, Haas, Crichton, Frizell, Trbojevic. Subs: Finucane, Brown, Yeo, Paulo.
Referee: Gerard Sutton.
Half Time: 12-6.
Full Time: 20-14.
Venue: Suncorp, Sydney.
Attendance: 50,000 (Capacity).