Every Act Of Creation Is First An Act of Destruction
The final State of Origin for this year saw Queensland defeat New South Wales 52-6. One of the biggest margins of defeat was also one of the masterpieces of the Queensland golden era. It began with the destruction of the New South Wales forwards, which allowed Jonathon Thurston a blank canvas to ply his artistry.
The obliteration of the Blues began with their strength. Unlike in game two, where the Blues had gorged on yards in the middle of the park, Queensland began this game by muscling up to the New South Wales forwards. Starved of possession by penalties (12-5), a poor completion rate (68%) and a much faster, more aggressive Queensland line, Woods, Tamou, Gallen and Klemmer found no space in the middle of the park – only Gallen (18 runs for 142m) was able to find consistent yards. The Blues found no respite from the Maroons in defence, and Queensland rolled up the middle of the park against the tiring defence. Scott (16 for 138m), Myles (13 for 101m), Parker (20 for 147m) and Lillyman (13 for 137m) feasted where they had famine in game two.
The Queensland forwards laid waste to the Blues plan of winning in the middle of the park. At worst they battled New South Wales’ highly rated forward pack to a draw. More likely they took the advantage. The result of this was the Blues’ game plan was but a pile of rubble by mid-way through the first half.
Upon that rubble Jonathon Thurston decided he would take the right hand side of the New South Wales defence and turn it into his own personal Mona Lisa. He tormented Mitchell Pearce (5 missed tackles) and Josh Morris, using Aidan Guerra, Greg Inglis, Josh Papali and Will Chambers in a variety of ways to run at, around and through the gaps around Pearce.
The play Queensland ran to obliterate the Blues’ defence was simple. Thurston would use Papali and Guerra running hard and straight on either side of Pearce to either hit the gap, or act as a decoy, on the right edge. The first time Papali and Guerra ran this line, Thurston saw Pearce come in to take him and hit Papali inside Morris for an easy try. Queensland scored again when Guerra and Papali were used as decoys by Thurston, delaying any support from the inside, and Inglis was isolated one on one with Pearce. At this stage it was already 22-2 and it was looking all too easy.
Thurston never had to go beyond this play. In the 50th minute he hit Guerra on the outside of Pearce who passed inside to Morgan for a try. Later it was outside to Boyd in the corner. After that outside to Chambers. It was all based on the same idea – isolate Pearce: win the game. And Thurston was relentless.
New South Wales are now faced with some serious questions to answer. The forwards clearly have the ability to dominate – so why did they wilt so dramatically here? Hodkinson and Pearce had no field position or possession tonight, but they’re yet to show they have the creativity and connection that Thurston and Cronk have. Only Dugan continued to show he is capable of delivering, regardless of the game situation.
Queensland too have some questions to answer. Their forwards competed in two of the three games – but the degree to which they were dominated in game two would worry coach Meninga. Smith, Thurston and Cronk continue to show they are possibly the best organisational group in Origin history. But beyond them Cherry-Evans has been found wanting.
And so Queensland take the series. They did it by matching the New South Wales forwards and unleashing the world’s best player. While many may remember it as the destruction of New South Wales, we instead should remember it as the creation of a masterpiece by Jonathon Thurston.