Origin 3 – Five Key Points
One Shark will be heading to the Gold Coast on a high, four others deeply disappointed following the deciding State of Origin game at Suncorp Stadium last night.
Valentine Holmes was a star for Queensland, while the four NSW Sharks toiled hard but were unable to have a significant impact on a match where the Maroons claimed a convincing 22-6 victory.
How did the Sharks perform, what were the big moments, the five key points to come from Origin game three.
See what we thought.
1. Holmes 1-2-3
Sharks fans know the special talents Valentine Holmes possesses, now the whole rugby league world is fully aware of what he is capable of.
Holmes was almost faultless on the left wing for Queensland, his three tries a combination of his skill and athleticism.
The first touchdown Holmes showed his anticipation, strength and acceleration in backing up Michael Morgan to score wide out, the second he positioned himself perfectly for a Cooper Cronk cross-field kick, then the third was something else.
Maroons debutant Cameron Munster broke through a staggered NSW defensive line and threw a loopy pass behind a flying Holmes. Somehow the Sharks flyer stuck out one hand, behind him and above his head, juggled the ball, brought it into his chest, beat two cover defenders and planted the ball down in the corner.
It was brilliant finishing from the young Shark who became just the eighth player in Origin history to claim a hat trick of tries.
2. Storm masterclass
If anyone needed reminding as to how hard the Melbourne Storm will be to beat in 2017, their stars were on show once again in Queensland’s Origin win.
Skipper Cameron Smith produced a masterclass in the first 40 minutes, mesmerizing the NSW defense with ball in hand and controlling the NSW ruck speed as only he can do.
Billy Slater showed his class, Cooper Cronk executed perfectly as he always does, while Cameron Munster attacked brilliantly in the second half, so well in fact that the Storm’s ‘big three’ may now need to be expanded to four.
If they can recapture that form back in club land in the next eight weeks then during the finals, the Storm will take some beating for the 2017 title.
3. The NSW Sharks tried hard
Again there was a plan to shut down the running game of Andrew Fifita, a plan which the Queenslanders executed with their in-your-face and aggressive defense.
They got up at Andrew in numbers and got at him early.
Strangely his minutes were limited in the second half and he did get frustrated towards the end of the game.
Wade Graham was pitched into the game late in the first half and almost immediately lifted the Blues intensity.
Graham was physical in defense and threatened with the footy. Like Gillett and Cooper on the Queensland edges, the Blues need to find Graham a spot on one side of the field and to leave him out there for the 80 minutes. Did give away a crucial penalty during the second half which he would have been disappointed with.
James Maloney pushed, probed, made a try saver on Tim Glasby, kicked for the lone NSW try and did all he could to lift his team, however his forwards never quite managed to get on top which limited his effectiveness.
The problem for coach Laurie Daley has been what to do with Jack Bird but it was evident when he was out there the speed of the NSW attacked stepped up a notch.
Birdy ran hard, tackled strongly, even had a stint at dummy half, and forgive the pun but the ‘bird had flown’ by the time he got out there.
4. You need the ball to win
The Sharks have spoken at length about it this season. Hold the ball, complete your sets, make all your tackles and you give yourself the best chance to win.
Sounds simple but as they say, rugby league is a simple game.
Even more important in an Origin clash, if you can control the ball you considerably enhance your chances of winning the game. With 34 of the NRL’s elite players on the field, it becomes a crucial element.
NSW completed their sets at just 63 per cent, as James Maloney said afterwards it was more like a reserve grade performance than an Origin effort and the result showed.
Seven errors with the football in the first half were too many, another five in the second made a comeback impossible, as Queensland cruised to a series victory.
5. The Thurston send-off
Arm in a sling, family by his side, Johnathan Thurston had the crowd at fever pitch even before a ball had been kicked.
Queensland took time out to give the Maroons legend a pre-game send-off and the short but emotional ceremony had the desired effect.
While the teams would have been somewhat oblivious to what was going on in the minutes before kick-off, they would have certainly felt the energy once they set foot on the Suncorp Stadium turf, with the sell-out crowd engaged and demanding nothing less than Queensland success.
And almost from the opening whistle that’s what they got. Thurston’s old buddies Smith, Cronk and Slater led the way and with some of his newest friends in Gagai, Holmes and Munster lending a helping hand it was one-way traffic, with the 12-0 half time score flattering NSW and a poor indicator of Queensland’s dominance.
Even when he isn’t on the field Thurston found a way to drive that stake into the heart of NSW players and fans once again.