With the series neatly tied at one game apiece the scene was set for the mother of all State of Origin deciders Queensland´s Maroons took on the Blues of New South Wales for the 2022 bragging rights. The Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane was a sell-out in advance of kick-off as a nation held it´s collective breath.
After demolishing the Maroons by 44-12 the last time out, New South Wales were the clear favourites for the series win, despite the game being played in front of a partisan Queensland crowd.
Both Brad Fittler and Billy Slater made a few changes to their sides, most notably the Maroons losing the services of Cameron Munster and Felise Kaufusi.
Within a minute of the kick-off Cameron Murray took a big hit in the tackle and was helped off the field for an assessment, words were exchanged and inside two minutes Selwyn Cobbo went awkwardly into a tackle forcing a delay while he was immobilised and taken from the field, the mood was set for a brutal eighty minutes.
Eight minutes into the game Josh Papalii had a try ruled out for a knock-on but on twelve debutant Tom Dearden threw the perfect short ball to Valentine Holmes who bust between two defenders to put the first points on the board for Queensland. Holmes added the extras to his own try for 6-0, deserved after the stronger start of the two sides.
Jerome Luai never gave up when he chased a Nathan Cleary grubber on eighteen and respite hitting the ground in goal, he managed to keep his composure and get both hands on the ball to score. Cleary added the conversion, and the sides were back locked up.
The Blues were in the lead on thirty-two with a Jacob Saifiti try, crashing through the Queensland defence from ten metres out to score under the sticks. Cleary was again accurate with the boot to give his side a six-point lead.
With seconds remaining a mistake from Daniel Tupou as he failed to take a Daly Cherry-Evans 40-20 kick, and on the fourth tackle a deft grubber from Harry Grant took a ricochet as it was chased and grounded by Kurt Capewell ahead of the tracking defenders. Holmes was just wide with his kick, the Blues taking a 12-10 lead into the break in a game that was too close to call.
There was under a minute on the second half clock a punch up broke out in back play with multiple punches thrown, Dane Gagai was sin-binned for an off the ball incident and Matt Burton for throwing punches, both sides down to twelve for ten minutes.
With the two sides back to thirteen Nanai had a try ruled out for a knock-on as he jumped to take a high kick and a brilliant Ben Hunt 40-20 on fifty-eight for the Maroons got them close but great Blues defence kept them at bay, but a drop out was forced.
On the next set Cherry-Evans found Kalyn Ponga to go through the smallest of gaps and get the ball on the ground. Holmes was accurate with the boot, the home crowd in ecstasy as their favourites took a four-point lead.
Siosifa Talakai lost the ball close to his own line and on the next play the ball was moved to Harry Grant who seemed to bounce over the line for what looked like the game winning score but the decision went to review and the try was ruled out.
Ben Hunt won the game for Queensland on seventy eight when he gathered in a point blank Cleary kick on his iwn thirty and sprinted seventy metres avoiding the tackle of Isiah Yeo to score in the right hand corner for a sensational conclusion to the game. Holmes drilled his kick between the uproghts for a final scorfeline of 22-12.
It had been a brutal, exciting, breathless and skilful encounter between two massively dedicated sides which served up the game of the series, and probably the Origin game of the decade. There were casualties on both sides as they ran their blood to water in the quest for the win, Queensland overcoming the odds and sealing it on their own turf.
The game was nothing short of sensational.
Queensland: Ponga (T), Cobbo, Holmes (T, 3G), Gagai (SB on 41), Oates, Dearden, Cherry-Evans, Collins, Hunt (T), Papalii, Capewell (T), Nanai, Carrigan. Subs: Grant, Arrow, Gilbert, Fa´asuamaleaui. 18th: Flegler.
New South Wales: Tedesco, To´o, Burton (SB on 41), Crichton S, Tupou, Luai (T), Cleary (2G), Trbojevic J, Koroisau, Paulo, Murray, Martin, Yeo. Subs: Saifiti (T), Cook, Crichton A, Talakai. 18th: Wighton.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 6-4, 6-6, 6-10, 6-12, 10-12 : HT : (SB), (SB), 14-12, 16-12, 20-12, 22-12: FT.
Lead Exchange: QLD – Square – NSW – QLD.
Referee: Ashley Klein.