Queensland have pulled off one of their greatest and most courageous wins in State of Origin history, forced to come from behind with 15 players to take out the 2022 series 22-12 at Suncorp Stadium.
The Maroons, ranked outsiders on home turf following their Origin II loss in Perth and reeling from the withdrawals of Cameron Munster and Murray Taulagi, shut the Blues out in the second half.
Maroons fullback Kalyn Ponga responded to critics to put on a masterclass in the second half and come up with the match-winning play after the Blues held a 12-10 lead after 60 minutes.
His solo effort, and miraculous performances from Ben Hunt and Daly Cherry-Evans, got the Maroons home.
In one of the most frantic openings in Origin's 43-year history, three players were lost to head knocks in separate incidents after just five minutes of play.
Cameron Murray was first to leave the field after colliding with Corey Oates in the second minute before Selwyn Cobbo copped friendly fire from teammate Patrick Carrigan and was assisted via medicab.
The game was stopped again two minutes later when Lindsay Collins failed a head injury assessment after collecting the hip of Roosters teammate Daniel Tupou in a tackle.
Hunt wins Origin for Queensland
Once the match got back into a groove the Maroons got on the board first through ever-reliable centre Valentine Holmes with Cowboys teammate Tom Dearden the provider to come up with a try assist on debut.
After being called in late for Cameron Munster, the Maroons rookie looked calm in his first appearance on home turf.
NSW weathered another Queensland raid before striking back on the scoreboard through five-eighth Jarome Luai.
Luai's club combination with Nathan Cleary came to fruition with an 18th minute grubber finished off by the livewire playmaker.
The Blues snatched the lead in the 31st minute when Knights prop Jacob Saifiti, who was called in for Jordan McLean last week, ran onto an Api Koroisau pass to the line.
Just as the Blues looked to be gaining the ascendancy, a sloppy error from Daniel Tupou with 90 seconds left before half-time enabled Queensland to reduce the deficit to two points.
A weaving Harry Grant teamed up with Kurt Capewell, who moved into the centres following Cobbo's injury, to get the side their second on the stroke of the break with the Broncos back-rower beating Brian To'o to the ball in-goal.
Tempers boiled over immediately after half-time when Dane Gagai took out Matt Burton in back play to spark an all-in melee with both players sent to the sin-bin for throwing punches.
The reduction of 12 sapped both sides further energy but none more so than the Blues who began to lose their way in attack with a brain snap by Stephen Crichton in the 58th minute allowing Queensland to take the lead.
Ponga with the quick feet and a superb try
Ponga's solo effort got the Maroons the lead before the Blues continued to fumble their way to defeat that will have those south of the border questioning some decisions made by Brad Fittler throughout the series.
However, ultimately, the Blues made it hard for themselves the moment they dropped Origin I in Sydney and despite a gallant effort in the decider, were no match for a Queensland side that never, ever say die.
A charge down effort from Hunt before the siren sealed the Maroons victory in front of over 52,000 at Suncorp Stadium.
- The 43rd year of Ampol State of Origin was the 22nd time the series has ended in a decider.
- Queensland have now won 38 of the 59 games played at Suncorp Stadium, and won 23 series in total. They now lead the head-to-head battle in games 66-55.
- Queensland have now won Game Three in 11 of the last 13 series.
- Queensland have won eight of the last nine men’s State of Origin series when the series has been decided in Game Three; New South Wales’ only series victory in that span came in the 2019 campaign.
- Valentine Holmes scored his seventh try in Game Three of State of Origin to pass coach Billy Slater and join Dale Shearer.
- Origin trio Lindsay Collins, Selwyn Cobbo and Cameron Murray were all ruled out inside five minutes of the game to separate head knocks.
- Queensland were denied two tries with Jeremiah Nanai ruled to have lost the ball forward twice in the air.
- The Maroons were denied a further three tries, two through forward passes and one through foul play.
- Queensland completed at 85% for the match compared to NSW's 71%.
- The Maroons dominated with 19 offloads to NSW's 11.
- Kalyn Ponga was immense for the Maroons, running for 299 metres in the win which included a try, 18 tackle busts and four offloads.
- Patrick Carrigan claimed the Wally Lewis medal for player of the series.
- Blues prop Jacob Saifiti scored a try and ran for 130 metres on Origin debut but came up with an error in the second half in an otherwise promising game.
Plays of the game
From Ben Hunt's 40/20 play in the second half to Valentine Holme's saving effort to Hunt's try in the final 90 seconds to seal the win, Queensland came up with some miracle plays to get their side home.
A Hunt speciality in Origin
What they said
"Never have I ridden anything home like that last 20 minutes. That was incredible. I have no voice left, I don't think. It was a unique game, especially at the start when we lost two players. It just showed how much commitment both sides were willing to put on the line. We knew it was going to take petrol out of the tank but that was one of the best performances from a Queensland teams I've ever seen." - Maroons coach Billy Slater.
"It was pretty disappointing. We knew coming up to Queensland it would be tough and we didn't compete well enough in the second half. It sucks but we have to take it. There was no excuse for that, especially the start to the second half. We didn't react well enough. We made too many mistakes as well and you can't do it in Origin games and you pay for it in Origin games." - Blues halfback Nathan Cleary.
NRL Press Conference: State of Origin Game 3 NSW v QLD 2022
"I thought our first half was really good, it was disappointing letting a try in at the end of the first half and then the second half there we just killed ourselves. We couldn’t get in the game, too many errors and credit to Queensland they played really well,” – Blues captain James Tedesco.
"I’ve been doing this a long time. You win and you lose. It’s just disappointing when you’ve worked so hard for so long, in amongst club footy and trained hard and given up and sacrificed. But then you lose. So it hurts. But that’s what makes people strive harder and we’ve got to be better. They’re two really evenly placed teams. They’ve both got some really good players and it is hard to win here (Suncorp) without a doubt and they proved that again tonight. But I thought Queensland were very good, they had great energy. Ben Hunt was outstanding, I thought Kalyn Ponga was outstanding, I thought they were definitely the better team. – Blues coach Brad Fittler.
Gagai and Burton sent to the bin
The series between both states wraps up with players now to return to their clubs and prepare for a final seven weeks of the NRL Telstra Premiership.
For some players their clubs are well within reach of competing for a title while for others they'll be heavily relied upon in the final weeks of the regular season.
The Rabbitohs, Broncos and Roosters will have immediate injury concerns following the head knocks to Cameron Murray, Selwyn Cobbo and Lindsay Collins, who all suffered category one concussions.