Shock and awesome.
That’s how each side of rugby league’s interstate divide summed up the extraordinary events of the State of Origin decider at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night.
NSW coach Laurie Daley said he never saw the record 52-6 thrashing coming, while his Queensland counterpart Mal Meninga credited his “older” players for leading the way for his side.
It was a game which the Blues had hoped would herald the beginning of a new dynasty, after they broke the Maroons’ eight-year stranglehold on Origin. Instead Queensland reaffirmed in emphatic style what a champion side they are.
“The boys were awesome,” Meninga said.
“The leadership group, the ‘older players’, were fantastic, we had a defensive focus in the lead-up and I don’t think I have ever seen a better defensive effort from a Queensland side. It all came from great intent.”
The Maroons forwards monstered their Blues’ opposites early to set the platform for Origin’s biggest ever thrashing. NSW didn’t help themselves though, with poor handling and ill discipline costing them dearly.
“We were never in it,”Daley said.
We didn’t start the way we would have liked to and it didn’t get much better from there.
“It just came down to possession, just too much pressure and too much defence told in the end. We had no ball.
“I just didn’t see that one coming.”
NSW skipper Paul Gallen, who managed 132m from 18 runs and 38 tackles was almost lost for words.
“I’m just shocked,” he said.
“We let ourselves down. Laurie just gave it to us in the changeroom.”
In Maroons legend Justin Hodges’ final Origin game after a week in which skipper Cameron Smith had come under fire from Alex McKinnon, man of the series Corey Parker led the way for the home side and Johnathan Thurston wasn’t far behind.
In the most clinical display seen in Origin, Queensland dominated the Blues in every facet of the contest.
The Maroons enjoyed 69 per cent of possession, completing 37 sets to the Blues’ 17. Queensland scored eight tries to one, made nine line breaks to one, charged for 1536m to 734m, made 180 runs to 88, with the Blues forced to make 312 tackles to their opponents’ 165. NSW missed 27 tackles against Queensland’s four and lost the penalty count 12-5.
“I couldn’t have asked for any more,” Smith said.
The humiliating nature of the defeat will stay with those Blues players who remain in the team for Origin I in 2016. Despite the annihilation after last season’s heroics, Daley said all was not lost.
“It’s not quite back to square one,” he said.
“That’s not what we are capable of. We have taken some steps forward over the last two years, but we took a few steps back tonight.”
As expected Michael Ennis filled in for the injured Robbie Farah for the Blues at hooker, but had little impact. Trent Merrin, four games, Beau Scott and James Tamou, one game each, all face possible bans from charges arising out of Origin III.
The record Suncorp Stadium crowd of 52,500 brought the total series attendance figure to an all-time high of 224,135.