Sport Against the odds, Queensland wins 22-12 in bruising State of Origin decider
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Against the odds, Queensland wins 22-12 in bruising State of Origin decider

Queensland emerges triumphant in Origin decider

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Ben Hunt has broken New South Wales’ hearts with an opportunistic try to hand Queensland a 22-12 win to seize the 2022 State of Origin series.

Hunt intercepted an attempted chip kick in the 78th minute as the highly favoured Blues pushed for a knockout blow in the dying moments of a truly momentous match at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.

In a game that will live long in the memory, the Maroons reversed the humiliating 32-point Game II loss in Perth a fortnight earlier to record a remarkable win as the chants of ‘Queenslander’ reverberated around the Sunshine State’s home of rugby league.

‘‘We did it again,’’ triumphant captain Daly Cherry Evans said after the final whistle.

Patrick Carrigan was awarded the Wally Lewis Medal as the best afield.

The result gave Billy Slater a series victory in his first year as Queensland coach.

Hunt’s heroics provided a fitting finale to a breathtaking game from start to finish.

The second half started in dramatic fashion when Queensland appeared to score a try via Cherry Evans only for the play to be ruled out by an off-the-ball incident in which Dane Gagai was adjudged to have interfered with Matt Burton, before the pair exchanged punches.

Both were sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes.

The game continued in breathtaking end-to-end fashion without either side giving an inch.

The Maroons made the most of kicking early in the tackle count to gain field position, and the tactic finally paid dividends after a 40-20 kick by Hunt.

Shortly afterwards fullback Kalyn Ponga evaded several tackles to dive over in the 61st minute to again give the Maroons the lead.

Holmes converted to give Queensland a 16-12 lead.

But the crowd was kept on tenterhooks in the last 20 minutes before Hunt pounced to seal the game, and the series.

Brutal opening

Qld’s Selwyn Cobbo receives medical attention before being ruled out for the rest of Origin III. Photo: AAP

Queensland pair Selwyn Cobbo and Lindsay Collins and NSW lock Cameron Murray were all scratched from the game after separate incidents in a furious opening at Suncorp Stadium.

Murray was the first to fall, staggering away after a head clash with Corey Oates after the Queensland winger’s first carry of the match.

Within moments of Murray being escorted from the field for a head injury assessment, Cobbo was left motionless on the floor after being sandwiched in a Maroons’ group tackle on NSW centre Matt Burton.

Incredibly, within minutes of the game restarting a third man was knocked out of the match when Collins copped a stray elbow from Daniel Tupou after the Blues’ winger was hit so hard by Tom Gilbert he bounced away into the unfortunate Maroons prop.

It meant the Maroons were down to just two players on their interchange bench and coach Billy Slater was forced into shuffling his line-up to make up for the absences.

Against the odds, the Maroons opened the scoring in the 15th minute.

Valentine Holmes scored his 11th Origin try in 13 Origin appearances as he slipped between two Blues defenders after a Tom Dearden assist to cross.

The North Queensland utility added the extras with a conversion to send the home side to a 6-0 lead.

The Blues hit back within minutes as a weight of possession allowed Game 2 man of the match Nathan Cleary to put in a grubber kick behind the Queensland defence, with Penrith teammate Jarome Luai on hand to cleverly force the ball for the try.

Cleary converted to level the scores.

The touch judge incurred the displeasure of the vociferous home crowd when he ruled that a Oates try be disallowed due to a forward pass.

Debutant front-rower Jacob Saifiti gave the visitors the lead when he scored next to the posts in the 31st minute.

Cleary’s conversion from in front gave NSW a 12-6 lead.

But the home side made the most of a sideline error by Daniel Tupou that allowed it to press the Blues line in the final 90 seconds of the half.

After a series of forward thrusts, hooker Harry Grant gained a fortunate deflection from a grubber kick for Kurt Capewell to pounce upon despite the best efforts of two defenders.

The resulting miss by Holmes gave the Blues a 12-10 lead at the break.

But a dominant second-half display by the Maroons gave the home side bragging rights for the next 12 months.

-with AAP