State of Origin: Queensland deny NSW sweep in nail-biter

NSW are State of Origin champions, but they are celebrating with a sour taste in their mouths.

Queensland avoided a historic series whitewash in a nail-biting Game 3 win on the Gold Coast on Wednesday night.

The game came down to a 79th minute penalty goal attempt from Latrell Mitchell that landed just one metre short of the posts.

His miss sealed a determined, fighting win for Queensland, who were led by inspirational performances by Ben Hunt Kalyn Ponga and Kurt Capewell.

Hunt was named man of the match before the Blues’ official Origin Shield presentation.

The Blues had one final play to try to win the game, but their game of keepings-off deep in their own half was eventually cut down, leaving Queensland with a 20-18 victory.

The taste in Blues coach Brad Fittler’s mouth will be particularly sour after he put the referees on notice in the middle of the second half.

Speaking during a live cross with the Channel 9 broadcast studio from inside his coach’s box, Fittler suggested his team was being harshly treated by referee Gerard Sutton.

When asked what his team needs to do to get on top in the game, Fittler replied:”It’s a bit hard, Joey. They’re sort of lying all over us, to be fair, like now. We’re not getting much joy from the ref. We need to play. We’re not going to win a grinding game here. We need to play”.

His comments came after Queensland enjoyed an avalanche of set re-starts for ruck infringements in the first half.

Fittler said after the game he was also unhappy about the referees keeping their whistles in their mouths in the play that preceded Ben Hunt’s second try when he claims Kalyn Ponga’s tap from a Xavier Coates pass travelled forward.

“There was a few decisions I thought were pretty dodgy, I wasn’t happy with,” Fittler said.

“I thought the Ponga one on the right-hand side before the try, I thought that was a knock-on. I thought before the goal kick Latrell got pushed in the back.

“I haven’t seen the replay but when I first saw the knock-on I thought that was an obvious call.”
The sight of 15 set re-starts and penalties in the first half also left Blues legends Andrew Johns and Phil Gould fuming.

“The only other point I will make is that someone needs to go down and knock on the referee’s door and tell him he’s not the main attraction here this evening, he’s been way too overzealous with the penalties,” Gould said at half time.

“Let the players decide the result.”

Johns earlier said: “That’s 15 in 37 minutes, can we let the players decide who wins the game?”

The series dead-rubber still had historic consequences for both teams as NSW chased its first series sweep since 2000.

The Maroons were desperate to save a shred of respectability after being belted in the first two games of the series with a combined score of 76-6.

Their brave fightback in Game 3 has likely saved coach Paul Green’s job and saved the Maroons from a 3-0 series humiliation.

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