Almanac Rugby League – State of Origin Game 3: ‘Bennett’s babes’ Mark II




The siren went 10 minutes ago and I’m still shaking! Origin is alive and well after a pulsating game. Not the prettiest match I’ve seen – Queensland butchered at least three tries, NSW couldn’t find their groove – but exciting, tough, frantic, end-to-end, brave, harrowing, passionate without any need for the biff, etc. Queensland should have won by more; NSW defended magnificently and almost stole it.


Yesterday I wrote:


For me, it comes down to the impact the following factors play in the game: the Queensland forwards, Cameron Munster, Damian Cook and Nathan Cleary, and Lang Park. The Queensland pack has to be much, much better than last week to hold the middle of the field and, if possible, dominate it; Munster has to play and play at his peak for the Maroons to be an even chance; Cook has to keep running selectively and Cleary has to maintain his kicking game in particular to corral the Maroons and force them to fight from deep in their own half; the Lang Park crowd has to be in full voice, regardless of the scoreboard, to try to get under the Blues’ skin and intimidate them out of the contest.’


In the end, the Maroons pack more than held their own in the middle with Josh Papalii leading the way; Munster was at his peak (freakish at times – eg the lead-up to Edrick Lee’s try); and the crowd did their job. Cleary didn’t have as much time or space so his kicks were less effective this week – but he was still NSW’s best player; Cody Walker was not allowed into the game; Cook was his pestering self but met his match in young Harry Grant. Cherry-Evans organised his troops well and kept them calm to the end.


In an email to an Almanac colleague earlier today, I said that either Queensland would win by the skin of their teeth or NSW would run away with it. Spot on! I’m not sure how the Maroons held on at the death with 12 men but their resolve, combined with NSW’s inability to find the crucial final play, saw the northerners stick tight and survive.


It was a game which demonstrated ever so clearly that the elite players do make a difference. Tedesco’s injury was a body blow to NSW’s chances and you can’t help but feel that had he been on the field, NSW would have found a gap to get that last try. Boyd Cordner would have provided the steadying influence that NSW missed throughout the game. Cameron Munster missed all but 2 minutes of Game 2; tonight he was best on ground, dominating three quarters of the match.


Let’s hear it for the rookies: Corey Allen improved after a nervous start – we’ll see more of him in maroon; Harry Grant was sensational in both attack and defence and gave an extra avenue to take on the line – he more than lived up to the hype; Edrick Lee hardly put a foot wrong and was excellent under the high ball; Brenko Lee battled manfully, clearly not 100% fit – but he did his job. Comparative ‘veteran’ Kurt Capewell, playing his second game, is an Origin worker a la Dallas Johnson with a touch more size and attacking flair. The ‘oldies’ were their usual reliable selves – Cherry-Evans, Gagai, Kaufusi, Papalii, Welch. Holmes was always dangerous, even if he missed more tries than he scored, and his goal kicking was spot on. Queensland got more out of their bench than the Blues, too.


NSW will rue a lost opportunity as far as this series is concerned. They proved to be hometown bullies but couldn’t replicate their ‘on paper’ superiority when playing away. They almost got away with it in Adelaide but, in the end, couldn’t match Queensland’s grit and application that night. Perhaps the Blues found today’s match day travel to be the problem it was for the Maroons last week. Whatever, they just could not get their act together tonight. The forwards were solid but never dominated. Haas was probably the pick along with Crichton. But the backs, Cleary and Gutherson excepted, were below par. Wighton was ineffective after a storming effort last week, Addo-Carr surely wasn’t fully fit, and Daniel Tupou had an unusually poor night. But, to their credit, the Blues’ defence was outstanding for long periods. Had they managed to steal it at the end, it would have been because their defence restricted the Maroons to three tries when it should have been six.


And what do we say about Wayne Bennett? Crafty old bugger! 2020 proved to be 2001 all over again – after all, Alfie was still there in the background tonight. Umpteen debutants during the series, extensive changes for every game, a mix of a few old hands, newbies with potential and the odd journeyman living the dream. Others will say it was a variation of 1995 when Vautin’s ‘Neville Nobodys’ whitewashed the star-studded Blues. Whatever, it was a win against the odds and adds to the master-coach’s legend. (A nice, if slightly belated, birthday present for last Sunday.) Expect him back for more in 2021.


A few years ago I opined that the Shield would move back and forward in the coming period with neither side able to dominate for any extended period. And so it has turned out. Expect NSW to come back strongly next year; expect Queensland to revert to its pick ’em and stick with ’em approach now that they’ve unearthed a new wave of talent.


An hour and 1000 words later, I’ve almost calmed down but I doubt sleep will come easily. I’ll probably just lie there and soak up an unexpected series win. It’s great way for those of us ‘up here’ to end the footy season – Origin victories in both the men’s and women’s competitions.


Where are you, Billy Moore? ‘Queenslander!’





To read Sean Mortell’s report of this match click HERE.


To read more State of Origin stories click HERE.



To return to our Footy Almanac home page click HERE.



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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. As well as being one of Footy Almanac's online editors, I moonlight as an editor for hire - check me out at


  1. What a game, Ian! Watched the second half in bed – not a good place for jumping up and down and waving arms in the air, and, like you, sleep didn’t come easily later.

    The word “travesty” kept spurting from my mouth towards the end, as NSW tried desperately to level the score. It certainly would have been, had they stolen it!

    Not being an avid league follower (except for the Broncos), most of the young Queenslanders were complete strangers to me, and their “Queenslander” spirit certainly shone through!

  2. It certainly would have been a travesty, Jan, after Qld dominated for so much of the game.

    Thankfully I had the lounge to myself to watch – anyone within a couple of metres might have been in danger of unintended friendly fire!

    I think it’s probably fair to say that many Queensland supporters weren’t all that familiar with a few of their players. We’ll certainly remember them now.

  3. This was a brilliant match from the outset.

    Much cheering in our household.

    Munster deserved all six Brownlow votes. A stunning game.

    Your analysis was on the money IJH.

  4. It’s worth noting that this was Queensland’s first series win since Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk last played Origin (in 2017). It’s worth noting that Queensland’s winning team in this year’s decider contained just 4 players from the 2017 decider: Valentine Holmes, Dane Gagai, Josh Papalii and Cameron Munster (who had a sensational debut that night).
    Ian, I remember that you didn’t expect Queensland to win in 2017, with Matt Scott and Greg Inglis missing the series, Corey Parker retired, Johnathan Thurston missing the first and third games, and Darius Boyd missing the third game. I remember you said that logically, you can’t expect to win with so many first-choice Test players missing. But with Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk still in the team (and Munster having a great debut), the result didn’t surprise me so much. But 2020 definitely had shades of 2001.
    Just like in 2001 (also when Wayne Bennett coached the Maroons), a largely new-look Queensland outfit had an unexpected win in game 1 and then got thrashed in game 2 at Homebush, before winning the decider in Brisbane. I always reckon that what is more telling than a hefty defeat is how the team responds to it (rather than the hefty defeat itself). In 2001 and this year, the Maroons learned so much more from a defeat than a victory. And it was also good to see Tino Fa’asuamaleaui show what he could do if he played quality, hard football instead of getting distracted by silly niggling tactics.
    I reckon Munster, Harry Grant and Lindsay Collins were exceptional, while the likes of Edrick Lee were good if not brilliant. Valentine Holmes and Corey Allan were disappointing, and made some crucial errors. Holmes, in particular, bombed a couple of tries. Thankfully the Maroons hung on, as they did in game 1.
    Munster’s absence in game 2 was certainly decisive, as was James Tedesco’s departure during game 3. But these absences can’t be used as excuses.
    Admittedly, the Blues missed Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trbojevic for the series, before losing Boyd Cordner and Cameron Murray after game 1. Still, I reckon it was quite an amazing series win for Queensland considering the game 2 result (and such a short turnaround). Additionally, there was no Kalyn Ponga, Michael Morgan, Moses Mbye, Dylan Napa and Kyle Feldt for the whole series, before AJ Brimson succumbed to injury after game 1. Also don’t forget that all 3 Queensland clubs missed the NRL finals.
    I don’t think the first two Origin games this year had any “real” Origin feel to them, but the decider certainly did! Origin football keeps reinventing itself. Brad Fittler did it with a heap of rookies in 2018, and now the Maroons have done it.
    Less than 12 months to go before the Maroons seek to defend their crown!

  5. Thanks, JTH. As I approach three score years and ten, only State of Origin matches have the capacity to reduce me to a quivering, nervous mess. I suppose I’m old enough to remember the bad old pre-Origin days, the shellackings we used to cop from our own northern lads in blue jerseys, the mental complex it all caused. We can never beat NSW enough times to make up for all of that. And when it comes as so against the odds it’s all the sweeter. A chip on our collective shoulders? Maybe, but not without cause.

    But I am getting better at acknowledging the strengths and skills of the men in blue. It used to be easy to ‘hate’ them in the ’80s and ’90s, even into the early ’00s. These days you just have to admire the skills and athleticism of all the players, what they’ve had to do and achieve just to play Origin let alone perform on that stage. Then, when you see what Munster did last night, you realise that you’re witnessing the sublime. Yes, there were several players out there in Maroon who, possibly, were lucky to be there. But be there they were and they made the most of it!

    Elsewhere this morning I shared this quote from the late English writer and journalist Geoffrey Moorhouse (sent to us yesterday by Glen Dwyer): “I’ve watched every variety of football and I’ve played two different sorts, and rugby (in both kinds) is much more attractive to me than other versions. For its grace and controlled aggression, for its sweepingly swift movements and its moments of brilliant artifice, for its palpitating climaxes, where one side is pounding at the other for the couple of points that will mean victory, and the adversary is defending as though the end of the world will come with defeat. For all these things, and for many individual shafts of daring and courage in every match, rugby league is incomparably superior to any other winter game.”

    Now isn’t that the game we saw last night? Didn’t we see it last Friday night in the women’s Origin match?

    It has been a crap year in so many ways, beautiful in others. State of Origin 2020, both men’s and women’s, has been, in the realm of sport, a part of the beauty.

  6. Liam, it’s fair to say that the Maroons have moved on from the Smith/Cronk/Inglis/Slater era. The 2020 squad may well mark the beginning of the next wave of long-term Maroons. The players you listed missing this year through injury will have to earn their recall next year. And that can only be a good thing if they have to really compete just to make the squad.

    I’m glad you highlighted Edrick Lee and Lindsay Collins – using the usual player ratings, I’d give both of them an 8 by comparison with a 9 for Munster and Grant. (For NSW, Cleary and Crichton get an 8 from me.)

    And DCE deserves great credit for his leadership and general organisation. His post-match comments were classy.

  7. It certainly was an excellent game, Ian.
    The Storm look they have already found a replacement for C Smith

  8. Smokie, I expect that the Storm knew he was the real deal and so, while C Smith was locked in for this season, they had nothing to lose by letting the lad go elsewhere for a year to broaden his horizons and get first grade NRL experience. He probably surpassed their expectations and so after letting a rookie go for a season they get back an Origin player. As you say, the Storm are the other big winners out of last night. Very smart indeed!

  9. Liam, I couldn’t agree more about how Game 3 felt that much more ‘real’. The seemingly inevitable result didn’t help last week, and Game 1 being played hot on the heels of the Grand Final, in Adelaide, with the sun’s rays still kissing the oval felt almost like a faux Origin.

    Much was made of the ‘worst ever side’ claim and to be honest, if you’d asked me to give my thoughts on the names ‘Lee’ and ‘Grant’ at the start of the year, I’d have assumed it was something to do with Civil War in the USA (a fraught topic to be sure). Up there with the best series finales I’ve witnessed, sure to go down in the books as a further galvanising of the Maroons legend of playing for the jersey as the eternal underdog (eight in a row really means nothing in the grand scheme of things!)

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