Origin III: Five Key Points
Munster's star showing, errors cost NSW, Smith's running game returns and Morgan's centres switch pays off. The key talking points from Queensland's Game Three victory on Wednesday night.
Munster proves Maroons dynasty far from over
Cameron Munster, take a bow. Fans from either side will be doing well to find a player who has looked more comfortable during their State of Origin debut. A controversial selection at five-eighth, Munster never looked out of place, silencing his doubters as he controlled the match from the outset. The Melbourne Storm utility finished with two try assists, 139 run metres, a line break and six tackle breaks in a memorable performance. Even more impressive was Munster's defence, making 21 tackles and missing none as he made a statement to those New South Welshmen who thought he could be targeted. With no Johnathan Thurston next year and possibly no Cooper Cronk, it appears as if Queensland are in safe hands. That is now three series wins in a row for the Maroons and 11 in the past 12 years.
Errors cost New South Wales
This Blues side made a total of four errors in Game One and this is the standard Laurie Daley's men had set themselves for the whole series. But it all came undone in Game Three as New South Wales began to rush their plays and fall into the trap of not respecting the football. They had already amassed seven errors by half-time, the most in a half this series, before captain Boyd Cordner knocked on just three minutes into the second half. The Blues finished with 12 errors for the match – the most they have made in any match this series – and the scoreboard reflected that.
Smith's running game returns
It had been almost absent during both Game One and Game Two of this year's series, but Maroons captain Cameron Smith made a point of bringing it back for the decider. From his first touch, Smith made it clear that he was going to run the ball, tallying up 31 run metres with his first four touches of the football inside the opening seven minutes. Queensland coach Kevin Walters had said in the lead-up that he needed the 34-year-old to rediscover the run and it was clear Smith listened. In the 18th minute he almost set up the Maroons' second, bursting through the middle of the Blues' defence before finding Billy Slater. Slater found Cooper Cronk but the Storm half was adjudged to have knocked on just short of the try-line. Smith again broke through New South Wales' line in the 27th minute, with the Maroons scoring off the next play. He finished with 107 run metres – his most in a match this series.
Queensland miss plenty of opportunities
They may have won the game, but the Maroons almost certainly should have put the result beyond doubt a lot earlier than they did. As touched on earlier, Cronk knocked on with the try-line within touching distance, but he was not on his own. On the stroke of half-time Queensland had a large overlap to their left after Tim Glasby intercepted on halfway and was tackled just short of the try-line. The passes to the left after Glasby played the ball were sloppy and when it arrived in Smith's hands he opted not to pass to a wide-open Holmes who would have strolled over untouched. The Maroons were on the attack again just minutes after half-time when Slater created an overlap. His pass to Chambers would have put his Storm teammate over for a try but Chambers dropped the ball cold and Queensland had bombed another potential four-pointer.
Morgan at home in the centres
There is something about Michael Morgan. No matter where he plays, he will always do the job. Starting at centre for the first time in any first-grade match, let alone Origin, Morgan immediately made an impact. In the 15th minute, Queensland's 'Mr Fix-it' showed his class, getting around direct opponent Josh Dugan before drawing in Blake Ferguson off his wing. What happened next was something the footballing world had seen many times before: a trademark Morgan offload. Getting his right arm free of the tackle, he somehow squeezed off a pass to Holmes who dived over in the left corner to score Queensland's first of the night. It may have been Holmes's try, but he can credit Morgan's brilliance for the four-pointer. In the 39th minute, Morgan's great night continued, making a try-saving tackle on Dugan that forced the Blues centre to spill his lollies just metres from the try-line. The man can play anywhere.