State of Origin: Game 3 Preview & Betting Tips
Its winner takes all – will the Blues retain their Origin shield for the first time in 14 years or will the Maroons stage another famous fightback?
NEW SOUTH WALES
Tom Trbojevic stole the headlines post-game with his magical hat-trick but it was the sustained effort by the Blues’ pack which made the biggest difference after their disappointing game 1. The Blues’ agile forwards bullied the Maroons.
Jake Trbojevic is an elite lock but started his NRL career at prop and responded to coach Brad Fittler shifting him to his original spot with aplomb, earning Man of the Match honours with over 130 running metres, 29 tackles without a miss and a marathon stint in the middle.
The positional shift allowed Dale Finucane to debut in his own preferred lock position and he duly excelled. Prop Paul Vaughan played from the bench and provided the seniority in the first forward rotation Angus Crichton didn’t in game 1.
Daniel Saifiti impressed on debut and with the Blues’ best on ground in game 1 David Klemmer returning after the controversial suspension of Tariq Sims, suddenly the Blues pack is looking even better.
Where there are serious questions though are in the new Blues’ halves pairing. Incumbent halfback Nathan Cleary suffered a series-ending ankle injury early in game 2. Veteran five-eighth James Maloney moved to halfback and excelled under pressure on the big stage.
Bench forward Wade Graham filled in at six and wound back the clock to his days as a fresh-faced Panther five-eighth with a superb cameo, even creating a try for Josh Addo-Carr. Coach Brad Fittler named Cleary for game 3 but after failing to respond to treatment, he was removed from the squad.
In his place arrives nobody else except Mitchell Pearce.
Out of context, this is a no brainer. Pearce has generally been in magnificent form for Newcastle in 2019, leading the Dally M and will reunite with his 2013 Premiership-winning mate Maloney and ex-club coach Fittler, who remains one of his biggest believers.
However, Pearce has a notorious reputation in Origin. Perhaps the most frightening stat is his 0-7 record in game 3’s (including 6 series deciders). Pearce was a scapegoat - fairly or unfairly - throughout Queensland’s unprecedented Origin domination and there were plenty who thought after his 2017 series defeat, his Origin career was done. Pearce was superb against the Roosters in round 11 but was dominated next match against Melbourne and hasn’t quite been as impressive since.
Having the game in Sydney is a boost – a more forgiving atmosphere for his return than it would have been in Brisbane. Pearce’s leads with his defence, he’ll take the line on and back himself to create chances for James Tedesco in support. His Origin short-kicking game hasn’t been great meaning Maloney may take on more of the attacking kicks.
The Blues were so confident last game not even losing their halfback slowed their attack down. Queensland no longer have legends like Slater, Inglis, Thurston, Cronk and Smith in their side. Will this finally be the year Pearce gets his Origin triumph?
Maroons pride themselves on their grit but they weren’t even in the same league as the Blues in Perth. No Maroon forward surpassed 100 metres. While the Maroons’ fightback in game 1 started when bench middles Dylan Napa and Joe Ofahengaue entered the action, Jarrod Wallace and Tim Glasby were ineffective in game 2. Overall Queensland’s 1825 running metres paled in comparison to NSW’s whopping 2532 metres.
Coach Kevin Walters responded by cutting Napa and Wallace for Joe Ofahengaue and debutante Christian Welch. They badly need a middle forward – like Josh Papalii– to put his stamp on the match like Jake Trbojevic did for NSW last start.
Kalyn Ponga didn’t shine in game 2 but his calf injury means his loss for the decider is a major blow for Queensland’s attack. Ponga’s secondary playmaker-ability is invaluable and his ability to create magic from even a standing start is unmatched. This also means Dane Gagai is the new goalkicker as Queensland no longer have a current first-string kicker at NRL level.
Queensland badly needs to reimagine their attack which has stalled – and Corey Norman could be the man. Norman is rushed in as a debutante five-eighth with incumbent Cameron Munster moving to fullback.
Norman at his best can flip a game on his own, and based on club level Ben Hunt is a better player when joined by Norman. The Dragon pivot has electrifying speed and will take risks in attack.
Munster meanwhile will relish being freed from being a primary playmaker – no longer pigeon-holed on the left-edge, he’s now got the whole field to work with. It’s a bold choice but necessary – Queensland have only scored four tries this series, including one via Dane Gagai’s intercept.
Across the last 25 Origins, the average halftime leading margin is 7.4 points, meaning PointsBet’s offer of an early head-to-head payout if your side is up by 4+ at halftime is a great option.
NSW’s last six Origin wins have come from half-time leads. Since 2002, Queensland has suffered three 23+ defeats in either games 1 or 2 and won the following match every time. In 2019, the Maroons have held a lead for under 14 minutes, while the Blues have done so for over 120 minutes.
*Odds subject to change