Fri, Jul 13, 11:55am by Staff Writer
Queensland have avoided a winless State of Origin campaign with an 18-12 victory against New South Wales at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night.
The Maroons, led by captain Billy Slater, in his final game for Queensland were dominant for large portions of the match, but the result was in the balance until the final whistle.
A Valentine Holmes intercept try in the 10th minute gave the home side a 6-0 lead.
What followed was a raft of possession for the Maroons, who at one stage forced four consecutive goal-line dropouts.
James Maloney was sin binned in the 31st minute for an intentional escort on Billy Slater which denied the fullback an opportunity to score a try.
Queensland opted to go eight points ahead through the boot of Valentine Holmes, in a decision that let New South Wales off the hook.
The Blues had made 28 tackles inside the Queensland 20 metres compared to just one for the Maroons, but had only conceded eight points in the process.
Queensland were left scratching their heads at half-time as they sensationally trailed 12-8.
The decision to inject bench utility Ben Hunt into the match in the 35th minute was game changing.
The Maroons conceded two tries before half time, with the first being a Tom Trbojevic intercept try when Queensland looked certain to score.
In the final play of the first half, James Tedesco busted through a limp Queensland defensive line to give New South Wales an unlikely half-time lead.
When Valentine Holmes and Daly Cherry-Evans scored in the space of six minutes, Queensland took an 18-12 lead and should have extended it further.
Josh Addo-Carr made a scything 70 metre run late in the match, but had no support players to finish off the play.
Queensland had 56 per cent possession for the match and completed nine more sets than New South Wales.
They ran for over 300m more than their counterparts and conceded only three penalties to New South Wales’ eight.
Returning halfback Daly Cherry Evans was superb for Queensland, with his kicking game pinpoint and his decision making tremendous.
The post-match was clouded in controversy, as Billy Slater was awarded the player of the series and given the Wally Lewis Medal.
Slater is the first player from a losing side to win the award. What adds to the drama is that he missed the first match of the series, with the way the award is bestowed in need of review ahead of the next series.
There is no doubting New South Wales were the better side for the series, with the 2018 State of Origin perhaps being a changing of the guard.
The Blues are $1.40 at Sportsbet to repeat their efforts and win the series in 2019. Queensland are $2.90 underdogs.
In his maiden State of Origin series as coach, Brad Fittler must be applauded for his bold squad selection and game plan.
Damien Cook at hooker was a stroke of genius, as were the selections of the untried backline players Latrell Mitchell, Josh Addo-Carr and James Roberts.
State of Origin 2019 Odds – Sportsbet
New South Wales $1.40 v Queensland $2.90
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