There were four moments of madness that cost NSW the series.
While the Blues were gallant in defence in one of the most brutal games in Origin history, NSW coach Brad Fittler will look back in frustration at the pivotal moments that cost his team the chance of securing a historic series victory.
The first, and potentially biggest, game-changing moment came on the stroke of half-time when Blues winger Daniel Tupou, who was a controversial selection ahead of Josh Addo-Carr to start the series, lost his bearings.
Tupou tried to avoid putting a foot on the touch line, despite being well in-field, and fumbled a ball into touch to give Queensland one last crack before the siren.
“It hurt us, definitely,” Blues captain James Tedesco said.
The Maroons were trailing 12-6 at the time, but a pirouette from Harry Grant allowed the hooker to put a deft grubber behind the Blues’ left edge that Kurt Capewell grounded.
“It took us a long time to get our of own end, so to get to the lead and then with a minute to go come up with an error that cost us the try … that hurt,” NSW coach Brad Fittler said. “It was a simple error, really. That hurt.”
The momentum shift was evident in the second half. When Daly Cherry-Evans booted his team into dominant field possession, the Blues were their own worst enemy.
Jarome Luai, who could see space on the outside of the Queensland defence, threw the ball over Sifa Talakai and into touch.
The youthful exuberance of the Panthers players has long been an advantage for Penrith in the NRL, but it was costly on Wednesday night.
Stephen Crichton also came up with a play he would like to forget, ruining a bullocking run out of his own end by distributing a rash offload that gifted Queensland a repeat set.
“They were crucial errors,” Fittler said. “There were a couple of bad ones there.”
The Blues continued to aim up defensively, but their mistakes drained them of energy. When Talakai ran across field right in front of his own line and spilled the ball, the Blues inflicted the final nail in their own coffin. “We killed ourselves,” Tedesco said.
“There was no excuse for that, especially the start to the second half,” Cleary said of the Blues surrendering a 12-10 half-time lead. “It just put us in a bad position. We didn’t react well enough.
“We knew coming up to Queensland it would be tough and we didn’t complete well enough in the second half. It sucks but we have to take it.”
The Blues’ moments of madness came when both sides were reduced to 12 men – Matt Burton and Dane Gagai were sin-binned after trading blows – with Queensland standing tallest from then on. In contrast, NSW made a slew of second-half errors to compound the flashpoint moments, at one stage completing at less than 50 per cent around the half-hour mark as Queensland slowly pulled away.
Centre Valentine Holmes said the Maroons had spoken of that exact scenario throughout a week in which they lost linchpin Cameron Munster and winger Murray Taulagi to COVID-19, and then Lindsay Collins and Selwyn Cobbo to head knocks early in the game.
“We spoke about it during the week in case we got down to 12 or something like that,” Holmes said. “We spoke about fighting for one another. Those little moments, those efforts areas, and I thought that we did really well in that area.”
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