Blues clinch series


SYDNEY: There have been plenty of stories dedicated to the alternative and kooky methods Brad Fittler has introduced to this next generation of NSW State of Origin players.
But none compare to the old-school attribute of belief.
And on the evidence of their victories in games one and two this year — with Sunday night’s 18-14 win sealing the series — the rookie NSW coach and his batch of first-timers triumphed where previous Blues teams failed.
With 11 players on debut, NSW showed plenty of ticker when they lost the lead early in the second half in Melbourne only to claim an impressive series-opening win.
They were there again on the rare occasion of an Origin clash on Sunday night.
This time it came earlier, with the Maroons stunning both the home team and the sellout ANZ Stadium crowd by racing out to a 10-0 lead inside the opening quarter of game two. And it could’ve easily been a three-try lead if Dane Gagai hadn’t simultaneously grounded the ball with his leg on the sideline.
Back-to-back tries — including only the second penalty try in Origin history — gave NSW the lead, and again it appeared the Queensland dynasty was finally over.
But as previous Origin warhorses have repeatedly warned us, the Maroons never say die, and no amount of barefoot training sessions, yoga, and salsa dancing would’ve prevented another comeback.
A 63rd-minute try to Will Chambers reduced the deficit to four, and when James Roberts was sin-binned for a professional foul, a familiar feeling washed over the stadium.
“We’ve seen this movie before, haven’t we,” Channel Nine commentator Phil Gould said.
All week Fittler reminded his team that they had left points at the MCG, and urged them to play accordingly, even despite the heroic return of Maroons champion Billy Slater.
The fact Latrell Mitchell did his best to deliver, and promptly turned the ball over with low percentage plays, only added to what was a grandstand final 20 minutes.
Fittingly, it was old-school defensive plays that delivered NSW their second shield in 13 years.
The first was a trysaving tackle from James Tedesco on a runaway Kalyn Ponga, which was matched by Nathan Cleary’s effort on Valentine Holmes on the opposite wing. –

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