Queensland wins Game 3 22-12 to reclaim Origin series title
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Ben Hunt charged down Nathan Cleary’s kick and sprinted 70 meters to clinch an against-the-odds State of Origin series win for Queensland with a 22-12 victory Wednesday over New South Wales in Game 3.
The Queenslanders won the series-opening match 16-10 in Sydney last month but were thrashed 44-12 in Game 2 in Perth, making the defending champion New South Wales team overwhelming favorites for the decider.
Queensland’s chances were dented further with two key players ruled out before the match because of COVID-19 infections, including star playmaker Cameron Munster, and then two players sustained match-ending head injuries in the opening three minutes.
A brutal game in front of a capacity 52,000-plus crowd at Suncorp Stadium featured plenty of heavy defense and time in the sin-bin for Maroons veteran Dane Gagai and New South Wales center Matt Burton because of a melee at the start of the second half.
Three players were sidelined with concussions in the first three minutes — with New South Wales backrower Cameron Murray injured in a tackle in the opening minute, followed quickly by Queenslanders Selwyn Cobbo and Lindsay Collins.
It left the home team with just two players on interchange bench. The Maroons scored first, with Valentine Holmes scoring in the 13th minute, but New South Wales scored twice via Jerome Luai and Jacob Saifiti to take a 12-6 lead in the 33rd.
Just when momentum was going the way of the Blues, Queensland narrowed the gap to two points at halftime when Kurt Capewell dived onto Harry Grant’s grubber kick into the in-goal just seconds before the break.
Fullback Kayln Ponga gave Queensland a 16-12 lead when he burst through three tackles on a short charge to the tryline and Hunt sealed it with his long-range solo run in the 79th.
“As soon as I caught it you could just hear (the crowd) roar,” Hunt said. “It is what Queensland is all about — hard work and really digging in when the backs are against the wall. We did it again tonight.”
A New South Wales win would have given the Blues four Origin series titles in five years and confirmed the start of a so-called dynasty under coach Brad Fittler, but first-season coach and former star fullback Billy Slater ensured that didn’t happen by guiding Queensland to victory.
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