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Queensland Maroons have won their first Origin series since 2017 in a nail-biter 20-14 against New South Wales tonight at a packed Suncorp Stadium.
They were written off before the series, but Queensland showed why Origin is one of sport's greatest spectacles with a powerful performance to end New South Wales recent dominance in another masterclass from coach Wayne Bennett.
A full Suncorp Stadium gave a slight sense of normalcy for what has been a torrid 2020 for just about everyone. The 49,155 fans that crammed into the stadium were treated to a drama-filled and tense Origin contest to top off what has been 180 games in seven months for rugby league.
New South Wales wait to win a series on Queensland soil since 2004 stretches into a 17th year. There will be plenty of questions for Blues coach Brad Fittler after the failure to fire for much of the 2020 series.
Queensland were branded the 'worst' side in the 40-year history of Origin, but the side that blooded 14 players across the three games, opened the game in the best possible way. Valentine Holmes made it 6-nil after he was on the end of a sweeping play in the 5th minute.
This victory has been rated alongside the 1995 series whitewash which saw Paul Vautin's Queensland win the series 3-nil despite not having Super League players. Wayne Bennett has shown again, the master coach has pulled another trick from his sleeve after 19 years away from Origin.
Returning from his concussion last weekend, Cameron Munster was the spark to lead the side. His touch of class was the difference between the two sides and produced some magic with a pair of kicks for Edrick Lee to make it 12-6 at the break.
For long periods of the contest, it looked like a procession to a Queensland win. When interchange hooker Harry Grant on debut just made it to the line to make it 20-6 with the clock ticking away for the Blues. Queensland showed more urgency in attack, defence and forced the Blues into some benign options.
The Blues tried to give us one final shock in 2020 and attempt a historic comeback. Daniel Tupou walked over for the Blues second then a pair of kicks from Nathan Cleary made it 20-14 with eight minutes left.
Josh Addo-Carr who has been a rock all series for the Blues earnt them a man advantage with five minutes to go after Queensland fullback Corey Allan was sin-binned for a professional foul. The Blues chucked the ball around, threatened but the ball ended with Junior Paulo in the final play. A desperate captain's challenge was successful but the officials called full-time on the comeback.
NSW were dealt a tough blow, losing fullback James Tedesco to a concussion after 20 minutes. Besides that, the Blues attack was anemic again. Most of the game was spent coming off their own line and the forwards were bent back often.
The Blues only points in the first half came from a Queensland error. Debutant fullback Allan spilled the ball into the path of Tedesco to get his hand to the ball first and make it 6-6 after ten minutes.
Nathan Cleary earnt redemption in Game 2 but his performance tonight was restricted to long kicks and taking on the line, albeit with a 40/20 as a highlight. It ended an emotional 2020 for the Penrith half, who lost both a Grand Final and Origin Series in a matter of weeks.
From the editor: this ends our match-by-match coverage of rugby league in Australia for 2020. Thanks to everyone who's stuck with us for the journey, and in particular the contributors to the site and magazine, as well as our readers. We'll be back in 2021 - our nineteenth year of fan-led coverage of The Greatest Game of All. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for a final edition of The Front Row and the pointy end of the Super League season, along with our NRL club reviews which are already underway. Wherever in Australia or the world you happen to be - stay safe, be well.
Queensland 20 - New South Wales 14
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
Halftime Score: Queensland 12 New South Wales 6
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Cameron Munster
2 points - Harry Grant
1 points - Dane Gagai
Tries: Valentine Holmes, Edrick Lee, Harry Grant
Conversions: Valentine Holmes (3/3)
Penalty Goals: Valentine Holmes (1/1)
NEW SOUTH WALES (14)
Tries: James Tedesco, Daniel Tupou
Conversions: Nathan Cleary (2/2)
Penalty Goals: Nathan Cleary (1/1)