Football and Sports News

Talking Points, game three, Queensland Maroons v New South Wales Blues, decider, Ben Hunt, Kalyn Ponga, Billy Slater, Brad Fittler, Siosifa Talakai, Val Holmes

State of Origin once again saved its best for last and the ferocious 2022 decider will go down as one of the greatest contests in rugby league history.

The match was played at an unbelievable pace with three players concussed in a frantic opening three minutes.

A raucous sell-out crowd at Suncorp Stadium set the stage for tempers to boil and the players quickly obliged.

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They were at each other’s throats from the first minute and the half-time break did nothing to settle things down, as the second half opened with a wild brawl.

Centres Dane Gagai and Matt Burton traded blows that sent the crowd into raptures.

There were about 20 talking points out of this instant classic but we’ve narrowed it down to six of the most significant.

Read on for some of the key talking points from the Origin III.

Billy Slater, Ben Hunt and Brad Fitter. GettySource: Getty Images

HUNT’S MOMENTS OF MAGIC

Ben Hunt may be 32 years old but he showed he’s still one of the most dominant players in the game after making some massive plays in the second half.

The first was a sensational 40/20 he booted in the 58th minute that led to Queensland taking a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

The second arrived in the dying stages of the match when Hunt charged down a Nathan Cleary kick and raced 60 metres to score the sealer.

“As soon as I caught it you could just hear the crowd roar,” Hunt said.

“As a rugby league player there is nothing better (than winning Origin), honestly. As a true Queenslander, I bloody love our fans and they turn up every year for us.

“It is what Queensland is all about. Hard work and really digging in when the backs are against the wall. We did it again tonight.”

‘Was there a cattledog call?’ | 01:16

Despite leading the Dally M Medal count before it went behind closed doors, there were question marks around Hunt’s selection ahead of Harry Grant in the series opener.

The Dragons halfback has been playing hooker for the Maroons with aplomb for years now and he proved all series why he deserves to be in the starting side.

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Even Blues coach Brad Fittler found time to praise Hunt’s 40-20 in his post-match press conference.

“It was a pretty nice kick, Benny Hunt made some big plays,” Fittler said

Hunt is one of the highest-paid players in the NRL on a cool $1.1 million per season and he’ll earn that again next, well past his 33rd birthday in March.

“He’s been the Ron McAuliffe Medal as the Queensland player of the series in two of the past three years,” Billy Slater said.

Cronk picks the 6,7 & 9 for Kangaroos | 01:47

“He earnt that starting spot, and playing a different position to where he does for the Dragons.

“What a performance. He’s one of the greatest competitors our game has seen.

“If someone is going to come up with a performance like that, it’s Ben Hunt. He just competes.

“He ended up with the football at the end and had fresh enough legs. It was an incredible moment.”
Queensland captain Daly Cherry-Evans also praised Hunt’s influence on the team.

“He’s someone I lean on. Ben is one of those people I use to get as gauge on the playing group of where we’re at and what we need,” Cherry-Evans said.

“He’s a big part of the Queensland team at the moment and I’m really proud of what that means.”

‘Can you imagine Munster right now?’ | 02:22

BLUES BLUNDERS PROVE COSTLY

Queensland made more errors than New South Wales but Blues’ blunders proved far more costly.

Daniel Tupou failed to defuse a Daly Cherry-Evans bomb on the stroke of half-time which led to a Maroons try and kept them in touching distance at the break.

Siosifa Talakai made three errors between the 55th and 68th minute with mistakes that allowed Queensland to take the lead.

One of those was a genuine coach killer – an incorrect play-the-ball as the Blues were mounting an attack.

“The pressure which Queensland put New South Wales under in territory and field position (put) individuals under pressure,” Mick Ennis said.

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Maroons make Tupou pay for crucial error | 00:50

“They were trying to make a difference, they were trying to come up with that moment for New South Wales and it just snowballed.

“It just got worse and worse and there were so many red zone or yardage errors and penalties that just completely suffocated New South Wales.

“They had to get through a mountain of defence on their own goal line which just zapped all their energy.

“They just didn’t have that power and punch to get down in Queensland’s half and attack.”

Cooper Cronk echoed the sentiment and said Origin came down to who could sustain the pressure for the longest periods.

“Every kick adds pressure, every error relieves pressure and it’s that the whole game,” Cronk said.

“You’ve got to have Blue jerseys or Maroon jerseys in the picture when those big moments happen.”

New South Wales Blues Press Conference | 09:13

PONGA DELIVERS HIS BEST YET

Queensland fullback Kalyn Ponga delivered the best Origin performance of his budding career.

Ponga was everywhere and scored the try that put the Maroons ahead with just 18 minutes left on the clock.

Nathan Cleary and Matt Burton peppered Ponga all night with towering bombs but the classy No. 1 proved equal to the challenge.

It showed why the Knights were willing to fork out $5 million on a contract extension earlier this year. The key will now be delivering on a week by week basis, something frustrated Knights fans have struggled to see in recent times.

Ponga finished with 226 run metres from 24 carries, 16 tackle busts, four offloads, two linebreaks and scored his first Origin try.

The commentary box, which included Origin legends Cameron Smith and Andrew Johns, were waxing lyrical about Ponga all game.

“Ponga, so dangerous. He has been brilliant,” Matt Thompson said.

“Proud of myself to be honest as well,” Ponga said. “This is my first series win. It is a pretty surreal feeling.

“I felt like we were building even into this game. We had a bump in the road in Game II. I still felt like we were building towards this game. The main thing is everyone doing their job to the best of their ability. I think everyone did it tonight.

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Queensland Maroons Press Conference | 18:14

“Running out of the tunnel and seeing Maroons fans, it was pretty awesome. These are the games you want to be a part of. These are the games that you dream to be a part of as a kid.”

Maroons coach Billy Slater, widely considered The greatest Queensland fullback of all time, praised Ponga.

“He had a great series. A real tough effort from Kalyn. He was always threatening and when Kalyn threatens with his legs first, he’s dangerous, his pass will come,” Slater said.

“I’ve always had a lot of belief in Kalyn, he’s a great guy and he wants to be as good as he possibly can and he had a great series.”

FREDDY’S GAMBLE BACKFIRES

Brad Fittler faced a serious selection predicament heading into the decider and his choice came back to bite him.

The debate was whether or not to pick Jack Wighton – the Blues best player in game one who missed Game II with Covid.

It was either pick him in the centres for Matt Burton or Stephen Crichton, or on the bench in place of Siosifa Talakai.

But Fittler opted to stick with his winning formula from Game II and left Wighton out completely.

Talakai had a night to forget in the decider, making two crucial mistakes in the second half.

The utility was penalised for an incorrect play-the-ball and gifted the Maroons possession with a loose carry on NSW’s line with the game in the balance.

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‘Totally ridiculous’ – Freddy SLAMS ref | 01:05

In 23 minutes on the field, Talakai ran for 29 metres from four career, made two errors, conceded a penalty and missed two tackles.

The problem for Fittler was if he changed a winning formula and lost, he would be blasted.

But they lost anyway which has left some questioning his decision to leave out the 2020 Dally M Medal winner and a genuine superstar of the game.

“Talakai was just trying too hard and you can’t blame him for that but he’ll learn from it,” Mick Ennis said.

VAL HOLMES STANDS AND DELIVERS

The Blues were under the pump having defended several repeat sets on their line when Nathan Cleary opted for a short drop out.

Cleary rocketed the ball towards touch and had it gone out NSW would have regained possession, but Holmes showed great skill to keep the ball in play as he tumbled over the sideline.

Magic Hunt moments seals series for QLD | 01:03

Queensland coach Billy Slater was asked after the game what his favourite moment in the match was and he singled out Holmes.

“I thought Val’s moment over the sideline to keep that ball in, that was a big moment,” Slater said.

“Yeah that was massive,” Daly Cherry-Evans responded.

Holmes struggled to explain the moment after the game and said it simply digging deep for his team.

“I guess it is just a reaction. I don’t know, worse comes to worse I was out. I thought I might as well try it. Luckily the boys were deep enough behind me,” Holmes said.

Queensland Maroons Press Conference | 18:14

“We spoke about fighting for one another. Those little moments, those effort areas and I thought that we did really well in that part tonight.”

Mick Ennis praised the performance of Holmes who finished with a try, 91 run metres, seven tackle busts, two offloads and a linebreak.

“That was as good as I’ve seen Valentin Holmes play,” Ennis said.

“He played with vigour, so hard to handle, the hole he hit off Tom Dearden was courageous and brave and turned out to be massive play.”

NSW MISS THEIR SHOT AT HISTORY

NSW had a chance to etch their name into the history books and become just the third team to win an Origin decider in Brisbane.

They were short favourites heading into Game III, with a superior team on paper and Queensland losing their best player in Cameron Munster to Covid.

But once again fortress Suncorp Stadium proved too tall a task for the Blues and they couldn’t take their place in history alongside the NSW teams of 1994 and 2005.

Brad Fittler and his assistants Paul McGregor and Paul Sironen all played in 1994, while Danny Buderus is also on Fittler’s staff and he was the Blues captain in 2005.

Fittler had brought in players from both games to talk to the group, including Paul Harrogan, Benny Elias and Nathan Hindmarsh.

Immortal halfback Andrew Johns orchestrated the 2005 victory and backed current Blues No. 7 Nathan Cleary to do the same on Wednesday night.

But alas Queensland once again found a way against all the odds and they’ve now won nine of the past 10 Origin deciders.

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