Sport Rugby League Queensland lock up Origin series as NSW star blasts ‘horrible’ display
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Queensland lock up Origin series as NSW star blasts ‘horrible’ display

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Johnathan Thurston and Cameron Smith celebrate Queensland's win. Photo: Getty
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It was the moment Queensland will never forget.

Leading 12-6 in a typically thrilling State of Origin decider, the Maroons, all of a sudden, were under the cosh.

They dominated the first half, highlighted by their slick ball movement and a pair of Valentine Holmes tries, and deserved to lead by far more than 12 points at the break.

So when New South Wales finally hit back, through an otherwise disappointing Josh Dugan on a rare attack, the Blues had life, and they almost scored again, only for skipper Boyd Cordner to throw an errant pass as the Maroons were scrambling.

That moment proved crucial, as just minutes later Holmes crossed for his hat-trick – becoming just the fifth Queenslander to do so at Origin level – in amazing fashion to settle the Suncorp Stadium nerves.

Holmes somehow caught a bullet pass from the terrific Cameron Munster despite having almost run past it, when, off balance, he stuck one hand up, juggled the ball, took control, was knocked down by Blake Ferguson, and then quickly got up to dive past NSW full-back James Tedesco.

Watch Holmes’ amazing try

The try was so good that cricket legend Mark Waugh – who knows a thing or two about amazing catches – dubbed it as “freakish”. The Blues never looked like coming back from there, as Jarrod Wallace added gloss to the scoreline with a close-range finish in the 67th minute after more Munster magic.

NSW star James Maloney slammed his side’s performance afterwards in a brutally honest interview.

“As a team, to put a performance like that on in an occasion like this, it’s horrible,” he told the Nine Network.

“You’re never going to win a game playing like that. It’s horrible … New South Wales deserve better. Laurie [coach Laurie Daley] deserves better.

“[In the first half] we only completed about 65 per cent … it’s like playing reserve grade.”

The 2-1 series win is Queensland’s 11th in the past 12 years and coach Kevin Walters’ second from as many attempts since replacing the legendary Mal Meninga.

Queensland skipper Cameron Smith said afterwards his side’s win was “pretty special” and the veteran, who was excellent during the 80 minutes, also starred once the match had ended.

Speaking during the post-match presentation, Smith sang the praises of the injured Johnathan Thurston, dubbing the Maroons legend – who will not feature again at Origin level – as the greatest Queensland player he had ever seen.

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The scene after Valentine Holmes’ stunning try. Photo: Getty

Smith then asked Thurston to the stage to help him lift the Origin shield in a heartwarming moment that was met with a roar of approval from the 52,540 fans at Suncorp Stadium.

Smith and Cooper Cronk were key players in the early stages, fizzing passes around in a bid to stretch the NSW defence.

And the Blues could only hang on until the 15th minute, when Holmes opened his account.

The Cronulla flyer just managed to score, keeping a finger on the ball as it hit the ground following Michael Morgan’s superb flick pass, and the Maroons almost crossed again in the 18th minute, only for Brett Morris to deny Cronk with a try-saving tackle.

Queensland added to their account in the 26th minute, though, when Cronk kicked a tracer bullet to Holmes in the corner.

They should have scored at least one more try in the first half, too, but Maloney denied Tim Glasby five metres from the line before Smith made a rare error, throwing a forward pass to a free Holmes – who crossed in the corner only to have it disallowed – after taking on the NSW defence.

It was those errors that had the home fans nervous when Dugan and the Blues finally hit back.

But they needn’t have worried. They had Valentine on their side.

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