With New South Wales having already sealed am emphatic series win, all that was left for Queensland was the thought of retaining some pride by picking up a win in the third and final State of Origin in a game played at the Cbus Stadium on the Gold Coast, a change to the original venue in Newcastle which was brought about due to a Coronavirus outbreak.
A capacity of just 27,000 were allowed into the stadium to see the concluding game of the 2021 series with coaches Fittler and Green both making several changes to their line-ups.
The Blues were without Saifiti, Luai and Cleary as Gutherson, Finucane, Moses and Hynes were brought into the side while the Maroons were without McCullough, Fifita, Arrow and Field who were replaced by Brimson, Ponga, Mann, Tabuai-Fidow, and Fleger, the latter two on debut.
The Maroons got off to a great start with a fourth minute penalty from Valentine Holmes after the Blues infringed in front of their own sticks and just twenty from the line.
On ten it was a return to Blues business as usual when Latrell Mitchell had to back track to pick up a loose pass before weaving his way through the broken defence to score from twenty metres out. Mitchell added the conversion for a 6-2 lead.
This was a different Queensland performance as they regained the lead through a Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow try on debut on eighteen after taking a Cameron Munster pass and making an unchallenged run to the line. Holmes added the conversion from in front of the sticks for 8-6.
After the first two games this was a far more even encounter and it was the Maroons who went into the interval with a two-point lead.
Queensland emerged for the second half without Holmes who was ruled out for the remainder of the game.
On forty-seven the Blues were back in the lead with Jack Wighton taking the pass ten from the line and straightening up to run to the line and dive over. Mitchell added the conversion from ten in from the touchline for 12-8.
Josh Addo-Carr nudged a Daly Cherry-Evans kick into touch on fifty-four and after two tackle-restarts Ben Hunt scooted from dummy half to dive onto the line by the right upright to level the scores. Cherry-Evans took over the kicking duties and knocked the ball between the uprights.
An incredible passage of play was started by a Ponga break and after some sensational keeping the ball alive it ended up in the hands of Hunt to run the angle for his second on sixty-three minutes. Cherry-Evans added the simple conversion for an eight-point lead to Queensland.
New South Wales launched an onslaught as they played catch-up.
The Queensland defence were all at sea when, on sixty-eight, Apisai Koroisau collected a Mitchell Moses grubber to spin out of the tackle and cross by the posts. Mitchell added the conversion, the Blues back to two points adrift with ten minutes remaining.
A late tackle on the kicker on seventy-eight gave Mitchell a penalty attempt from half-way but the ball didn’t make the sticks. Queensland wrapped up the ball and ran down the clock for a 20-18 win to salvage some pride from a series which has seen them comprehensively beaten.
Queensland: Ponga, Holmes (2G), Gagai, Tabuai-Fidow (T), Coates, Munster, Cherry-Evans (2G), Welch, Hunt (2T), Papalii, Capewell, Kaufusi, Fa’asuamaleaui. Subs: Brimson, Flegler, Fotuaika, Molo. 18th Man: Mann.
New South Wales: Tedesco, To’o, Mitchell (T, 3G), Trbojevic T, Addo-Carr, Wighton (T), Moses, Paulo, Cook, Finucane, Murray, Sims, Yeo. Subs: Koroisau (T), Crichton, Haas, Martin. 18th Man: Hynes.
Referee: Gerard Sutton.
Score Progression: 2-0, 2-4, 2-6, 6-6, 8-6 : HT : 8-10, 8-12, 12-12, 14-12, 18-12, 20-12, 20-16, 20-18 : FT.