Sport Rugby League Set of Six: What we learned from State of Origin Game III

Set of Six: What we learned from State of Origin Game III

Cooked? Mitchell Pearce had a big high for NSW, then seemed to fall flat. Photo: Getty Photo: Getty
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Mitchell makes good

There’s no bigger scapegoat in State of Origin history than Mitchell Pearce.

Thrown in as a youngster in 2008, he was unfairly blamed for many of New South Wales’s defeats for a decade as Queensland won series after series after series.

But back in the Blues team after two years out, Pearce made a great comeback for Game III.

Cool, calm and collected, at 30 years old the halfback is a different player these days.

He’s been through a lot of adversity, especially off the field, and come through the other side.

He was solid and determined in Game III and filled his role perfectly. He didn’t overplay his hand, but led the team with composure.

Pearce has finally exorcised his Origin demons and it was really great to see.

Where next for Kevvie?

The future of Maroons coach Kevin Walters is increasingly unclear. Photo: Getty

Questions are circling now about the future of Queensland coach Kevin Walters.

With back-to-back series losses now in 2018 and 2019, is he headed for the sack?

Walters has been in charge since 2016, when he took over from Mal Meninga.

The 51-year-old was a great player for his state back in the 1990s, but has never fully convinced as coach, especially without the talents of Billy Slater, Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk to call on.

He has been linked with an NRL job with the Gold Coast Titans constantly, and both ex-Queensland coaches Wayne Bennett and Paul Vautin have put up their hands to replace Walters next year if he joins the Titans.

Is it time for Kevvie to depart?

Underdog spirit

Dejected Maroons reflect on their series loss in Sydney on Wednesday night. Photo: AAP

Never write off Queensland.

Tagged as huge underdogs at the bookies, playing on enemy turf, without Kalyn Ponga and coming off a bashing in Game II, few were tipping the Maroons.

But you underestimate the banana benders at your peril.

With the pressure on they delivered, winning the forward battle for huge periods and intimidating in defence.

They played with greater line speed and intensity in the first half, and coach Kevin Walters got his selections right with Cameron Munster at fullback, Corey Norman at centre and Ethan Lowe on debut.

Queensland just love winning when the chips are down and it has been written off.

It wasn’t to be, with James Tedesco’s match-winning try in the final seconds the only difference. But the Maroons can hold their heads high.

Blow that whistle ref

One of the unwritten rules of Origin is the officials go easy on the whistle.

They let the game flow, err on the side of caution when it comes to physical play and generally just let the two states go at it hammer and tongs.

Essentially, almost anything goes.

That’s the way it has been for years and years. That’s the way it was in Games I and II this year, but in Game III the referees changed the script.

They blew for 13 penalties in the first half, some of them very debatable.

There was a mammoth 10 penalties handed out in the first 27 minutes, leading to a very stop-start nature of the contest, though they put the whistles away in the second half.

Commentator, and former NSW coach, Phil Gould even remarked: “The referees are interfering too much with this game tonight”.

Tremendous Teddy

James Tedesco dives in for his first try on Wednesday night. Photo: Getty

James Tedesco is one of the best players in the world, if not the best.

That’s no stunning revelation, but once again he showed his freakish talent and ability to rise to the occasion on Wednesday night.

Pummelled by Queensland and smashed at every opportunity, Tedesco was a star.

He didn’t just score the match-winning try but provided the X-factor when NSW really needed it.

His support play is sensational, his footwork freakish and his speed second to none.

The Sydney Roosters custodian is so good he could play anywhere, apart from the front row, and he would do damage.

Tedesco is scarily good and he’s only 26. He could dominate Origin for the next decade.

Classy rookies

Ethan Lowe shone on debut for Queensland. Photo: Getty

Making their debuts in the State of Origin arena were Maroons Corey Norman and Ethan Lowe.

The St George Illawarra playmaker had a decent debut with a solid display in the halves.

Norman got his hands on the ball early and set up Queensland’s first try with a neat grubber kick.

His kicking game was on song – apart from one bad one in the second half – his interchange with halfback Daly Cherry-Evans was slick and he did not look overawed at all about the big occasion.

He did not let anyone down.

Lowe was even better, kicking three conversions and a penalty, and doing all the hard stuff in the back-row.

It was a massive effort from the pair, even in a losing side.