Sport Rugby League Gagai bags hat-trick as Qld conquers Blues again
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Gagai bags hat-trick as Qld conquers Blues again

Dane Gagai
AAP
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It’s a moment that is destined to haunt New South Wales nightmares, adding to the catalogue of self-destruction that has now seen the Blues lose 10 of the last 11 State of Origin series.

Michael Jennings’ knock-on of a loose ball that bobbled around tantalisingly in the Queensland in-goal with less than 10 minutes of game two to go effectively saw NSW relinquish any chance of victory.

Agonisingly, if Jennings had left the ball alone, Tyson Frizell would have pounced to level the scores, giving James Maloney the opportunity to put the Blues in front and secure an unlikely win.

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After being dominated by the ruthless Queensland side for the 67 minutes of game two at Suncorp Stadium, the underdogs somehow wrenched the momentum away with a 90-metre try to Maloney against the run of play.

But in a familiar narrative, the Blues – the perpetual Origin fall guys – were unable to grasp their gilt-edged opportunity.

Maroons winger Corey Oates scored at the other end two minutes later to clinch a 26-16 triumph.

AAP
Corey Oates scored Queensland’s fourth try which eventually sealed victory. Photo: AAP

Despite the late rally, there’s no question the Blues’ performance was light years away from what is required to wrest supremacy from the clinical, overbearing Maroons.

Misguided loyalty loomed as the rock on which Laurie Daley would wreck the New South Wales ship. And so it proved as the coach’s loyalty to his underperforming Blues squad and faith in a flaccid game-plan resulted in yet another soul-destroying Suncorp Stadium loss.

Once again, halves Maloney and Adam Reynolds lack authority and invention, while Robbie Farah and Matt Moylan failed to provide the necessary spark.

In the middle of the park, the NSW forwards lacked venom and discipline.

AAP
It was another disappointing night for the men in blue. Photo: AAP

Aside from a couple of lapses, it was a trademark Queensland display: calm and composed, laced with grit and flashes of breathtaking attacking class.

There wasn’t a subpar performer in a Maroon jersey, but three-try hero Dane Gagai was the star of the show. The winger, who was under an injury cloud during the week, was almost faultless.

The opening half-hour was about as unremarkable as has ever been produced at Origin level, with a welter of penalties ruining the continuity of the game and barely anything resembling an attacking movement or a tryscoring chance to speak of.

The Maroons easily handled the Blues’ unimaginative and predictable offense, knowing their opportunity would eventually come.

And it was presented on a silver platter by NSW – Josh Mansour was unable to handle a panicked offload from Jennings, allowing Gagai to run 80 metres for the opening try.

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The Blues began the game at full throttle, but Queensland took a 10-4 lead into the break. Photo: Getty

The Blues were fortunate not to be further down than 10-4 at the break, rescued by an Andrew Fifita try-saver on a flying Oates in the shadows of the halftime siren.

Daley was unable to rouse his troops during the interval, however, and Gagai completed a brilliant double in the 47th minute after typically slick work from fullback Darius Boyd.

The contest appeared over at that stage, despite a richly-deserved four-pointer to the Blues’ rugged debutant Frizell.

AAP
Tyson Frizell did provide NSW with something to cheer about. Photo: AAP

Gagai became just the seventh player in Origin history – and the first in 11 years – to record a hat-trick of tries when he latched onto a magical Johnathan Thurston grubber with 17 minutes to go.

Retiring backrow warrior Corey Parker received a fitting send-off in his last Origin in front of his home fans, and will now head to Sydney with his Queensland teammates aiming to inflict just the second 3-0 clean sweep of NSW during their decade of dominance.

Meanwhile, it’s back to square one for the Blues. The kneejerk temptation would be to put a broom through the line-up and blood some new players, but Daley’s ill-conceived loyalty policy will probably prevent a mass cleanout.

He may as well stick with the current crop for the dead rubber – it’s almost certainly going to be his last Origin in charge.

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