Sport ‘Proud’ Billy Slater lauds crazy Queensland State of Origin win

‘Proud’ Billy Slater lauds crazy Queensland State of Origin win

The Maroons squad celebrates its victory in the State of Origin decider with family. Photo: AAP
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In a crowded list, Billy Slater has placed Queensland’s crazy 22-12 defeat of New South Wales in the State of Origin decider at the top of the pile.

Three men exited the game with concussion inside the first three minutes in Brisbane, while Matt Burton and Dane Gagai were sin-binned for a fight that triggered an all-in brawl.

But somehow the Maroons, down to a two-man bench and playing in front of 52,385 rabid fans, overcame a 12-10 halftime deficit to clinch a ninth win from the past 10 Origin deciders.

With the game still in the balance, Ben Hunt snaffled a Nathan Cleary chip kick and ran 70 metres to score the match sealer and cap one of the great Origin contests that harked back to the 1980s at Suncorp Stadium.

Prop Pat Carrigan, who played the first two games off the bench, was named player of the series, while debutant Tom Dearden stepped up in the absence of COVID-hit Cameron Munster and Kalyn Ponga was incredible at fullback.

“It was a unique game … I don’t know if I’ve seen a start to a game like that before,” rookie coach and former Maroons fullback Slater said.

“It was courageous … that’s as good a Queensland victory as I’ve ever seen.

“I don’t think I’ve been any prouder of a team I’ve been involved in.”

Gagai and Burton exchanged blows to ignite the second half in a fight that sparked an all-in brawl that had threatened to come in a fiery first half.

Behind five-eighth Dearden, the Queensland spine dominated field position and went ahead through a Ponga try, before Hunt iced the game and the series.

Earlier, a late Kurt Capewell try, off a trick-play short kick from Harry Grant, gave Queensland a sniff entering the sheds at halftime after the Blues had all the running in a mad first 40 minutes.

Blues backrower Cameron Murray was the first concussion casualty, clashing heads with Corey Oates on Queensland’s first tackle.

Selywn Cobbo followed him less than a minute later, the Queensland winger lying prone after some friendly fire in another tackle and leaving the ground in a neck brace.

Lindsay Collins completed the trifecta and left Queensland with just two on the bench, the prop copping a stray Daniel Tupou elbow after he had rebounded out of a fierce Tom Gilbert tackle.

NSW centre Burton, a clear target for some Maroons’ physicality, almost joined them when a swinging Tino Fa’asuamaleaui arm collected him across the chin.

Two scuffles broke out before some rugby league finally took hold, Jeremiah Nanai producing several brilliant touches and Dearden putting on the game’s first try.

His short ball for Valentine Holmes capped 13 minutes of madness, the crowd finally able to take a breath as Holmes converted his own try.

Tired legs hit Queensland though, Cleary targeting the ruck then kicking for Jarome Luai to calmly plant the ball.

Debutant Jacob Saifiti then capped a superb half with a bullocking try of his own.

Capewell’s try gave Queensland a sniff though, before the fireworks to begin the second half paved the way for another Maroons miracle.

Blues fullback and captain James Tedesco was almost flawless but he and coach Brad Fittler lamented a series of unforced errors – and praised a timely Ben Hunt 40-20 kick – in copping the loss.

“We came up with some basic errors … it wasn’t anywhere near our best performance,” Fittler said.

“Queensland were really good, without Cam Munster but (was it) the greatest (Origin) game? I’d say no.”