Sport Rugby League ‘Old’ Maroons demolish Blues in Origin decider

‘Old’ Maroons demolish Blues in Origin decider

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The ageing Queensland team complained after the game two loss that the brash young New South Wales outfit lacked respect.

The Maroons went out and reclaimed that respect – and the State of Origin shield – with the biggest victory in the concept’s 36-season history, destroying the Blues 52-6 in the decider at Suncorp Stadium.

And it was the under-pressure old guard who stood tallest for the resounding victors. The spine of Greg Inglis, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith were in vintage touch, while the maligned engine-room veterans battered their cocky, younger counterparts into submission in attack and defence.

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The Blues barely fired a shot on either side of ball, but weren’t really allowed to as the Maroons dominated territory and possession from go to whoa.

It is the most points Queensland have scored in an Origin match and it is their biggest winning margin.

There was the expected on-field hostility and fireworks between two sides that seem to have a genuine distaste for each other – but it came during the second half when the result was a foregone conclusion.

Greg Inglis celebrates after scoring a try. Photo: Getty

Queensland’s start was hardly that of an experienced favourite in front of a record-breaking home crowd. Two handling errors followed by a penalty, and the Maroons were down 2-0 after five minutes courtesy of Trent Hodkinson’s boot. NSW was then pinged twice in quick succession, and Thurston levelled less than four minutes later.

A more familiar Suncorp Stadium narrative began to unfold when frantic attack by the hosts resulted in wing debutant Dane Gagai diving over for the first try, before Thurston curled an exquisite conversion through from the sideline for 8-2.

Embarrassed in Melbourne, the Maroons’ forwards opened the decider with rabid intent, resembling missiles in defence and freight trains with the ball in hand. Under-fire veterans Matt Scott, Nate Myles Corey Parker and Sam Thaiday got on top of the Aaron Woods-led Blues pack early.

Ultra-hyped tyro David Klemmer’s 25th-minute introduction from the bench attracted a chorus of Brisbane boos usually reserved for a Gallen-type villain. But it was the menacing Bulldog’s interchange counterpart, the recalled Josh Papalii, who came up with the next big play by scoring off a deft Thurston short ball.

Frustration began to creep in for the Blues; a mindless late-tackle infringement by Beau Scott allowed Thurston to nudge the Maroons to an imposing 14-point buffer.

Immediately afterwards, Trent Merrin earned himself several weeks’ suspension for an ugly spear tackle on Parker. That gave Queensland another gilt-edged opportunity – one that they’d struggled to capitalise on in the first two encounters – and Inglis powered through from a trademark backline sweep.

Queensland didn’t give NSW an inch, as this tackle on Paul Gallen indicates. Photo: Getty

The defending champs’ pre-match swagger and bravado had evaporated in the face of a 22-2 halftime scoreline. After boasting that Suncorp Stadium no longer held any fears for them, the Blues seemed little more than deer stricken in ‘The Cauldron’s’ floodlights.

If the visitors weren’t dead and buried at the break, it took just a minute of the second stanza to seal their fate. NSW coughed up possession directly after the resumption, and departing great Justin Hodges miraculously defied the dead-ball line to keep a Cronk grubber in play to deliver a try for Matt Gillett.

The Maroons looked as dominant and confident as at any point in their illustrious eight-year reign; the Blues as vulnerable and outclassed.

Bench utility Michael Morgan forced his way through for Queensland’s sixth try before producing a gem of a cut-out ball to send Darius Boyd over in the corner as the hosts hit 40 and the history buffs scrambled for the record books.

NSW’s ball-runners were relentlessly swarmed with every carry, while any potential game-breakers in sky-blue jumpers remained anonymous – until Michael Jennings swept on a loose pass to run 70 metres and post the Blues’ belated first try with 19 minutes to go.

Will Chambers scored a determined try out wide and Aidan Guerra stormed over from close range, bringing up Queensland’s first-ever half-century and the biggest winning margin in Origin history. The humiliation was completed by the obligatory retirement conversion attempt by Hodges, which sailed between the uprights.

Mitchell Pearce, like several of his Blues teammates, had no answers to a rampant Queensland. Photo: Getty

Blues halves Hodkinson and Mitchell Pearce had proved themselves in some eyes at the MCG, but they were ineffective in the decider, as was dummy-half stand-in Michael Ennis – although they could hardly be blamed for the loss playing in a side perpetually going backwards.

Parker, whose mini-feud with the ‘disrespectful’ Klemmer garnered plenty of attention in the three weeks between games two and three, was a deserving man-of-the-match plucked from a host of worthy candidates, while also collected the esteemed Wally Lewis Medal as player of the series.

All 17 Maroons contributed strongly as they set new marks of Origin excellence, including the biggest Origin winning margin (46) and Queensland’s highest Origin score (52), while Thurston set new records for most goals (nine) and points (18) by a Queensland player.

It was an ideal 55th birthday present for coach Mal Meninga, but it was obvious his charges’ motivations ran far deeper than that after being stung by criticism in the wake of the Melbourne defeat.

How many of the veteran-stacked side line up again next year remains to be seen, but their stunning blitz ensured they all at least earned the opportunity to go out on their terms, answering the critics in the most spectacular fashion imaginable – a demolition for the ages.

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