The NSW Blues saved face in front of their home fans with a 24-10 victory in Origin III at Accor Stadium.
After losing the first two matches, the new-look NSW side dug deep to salvage some pride in front of 75,342 fans on Wednesday night.
Blues coach Brad Fittler made a number of changes in the wake of the loss in Brisbane and they were vindicated with Cody Walker claiming man of the match honours in his return to the Origin arena and 21-year-old Knight Bradman Best stealing the show with two tries on debut.
Just three minutes into the contest Best looked to open the scoring but he was denied with the bunker ruling the centre offside in the chase of a Walker grubber.
While the Blues appeared to have all the momentum in the opening 10 minutes, the Maroons were quick to capitalise on their first set in enemy territory.
It was Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow who tapped down a pinpoint Cameron Munster kick into the hands of David Fifita, and the Blues didn't have a chance of stopping the charging Titans enforcer, who crashed over the line to open the scoreboard.
The Maroons are on the board
But the Blues hit back just two minutes later with debutant Keaon Koloamatangi putting his mark on the match, producing a perfectly placed tap-pass to open up space for Brian To'o to cross on the right edge.
Come the 20th minute and Walker made his presence felt, with some quick hands to Addo-Carr before the Kangaroos winger broke down the left edge with a perfectly executed kick and chase putting the Blues in front 10-6.
The Foxx scores an instant classic
With the Blues mounting pressure and the Maroons coming up with some crucial errors, Walker orchestrated another left-side shift and this time Best capitalised, crashing over for a try on debut.
Not to be outdone by the Foxx, Tabuai-Fidow got in on the action in the 35th minute, sweeping outside Blues defenders before punting a kick through the line and regathering the ball just over the stripe to reduce the deficit 16-10.
A penalty against Harry Grant for crowding the ruck handed Stephen Crichton his second penalty goal of the half, stretching the Blues lead 18-10 right on the half-time buzzer.
The second stanza played out in a fairly even contest with both teams trading sets and while the Blues looked to break the deadlock in the 62nd minute through Isaah Yeo, however the forward was ruled offside. Eight points was still the difference.
After breaking tackles all night, Blues skipper James Tedesco finally found some space in the 64th minute, streaking down the left edge before finding Best in support who made it a double on debut. Crichton's conversion made it 24-10.
While Queensland had already won the series, the Blues managed to wrap up the game early in the second half and held on to their 14-point lead to salvage some pride out of the 2023 series.
Match: Blues v Maroons
Game 3 -
Venue: Accor Stadium, Sydney
- Cody Walker celebrated his return to the Origin arena, with a night out in the No.6 jersey, chalking up one try assist, one line break assist and three tackle breaks.
- Maroons forward and in-form Raider Corey Horsburgh was introduced into the game for his Origin debut in the 49th minute.
- Reuben Cotter played the full 80 minutes for the Maroons and had 14 runs for 116 metres to go with 41 tackles. He was named player of the series and took home the Wally Lewis Medal.
Two on debut
- Winger Brian To'o was huge for the Blues with 24 runs for 237 metres and a try.
- Blues skipper James Tedesco stood tall with 235 running metres and 11 tackle breaks.
- Blues utility Clint Gutherson entered the fray in the 78th minute of the match, replacing Josh Addo-Carr who limped off with a hamstring injury.
- The Blues denied Queensland their first clean sweep in 13 years. The Maroons have had four sweeps in 1988, 1989, 1995 and 2010.
The Blues hit straight back
Play of the Game
Queensland centre Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow iced an impressive 2023 series with a first-half kick and chase for the ages. The Dolphins fullback did it all himself on the back of a Reuben Cotter offload, tearing through Blues defenders before grubbering through fullback James Tedesco and outpacing Brian To'o to regather the ball to score his fifth try in just his fourth Origin appearance.
Outrageous from the Hammer
What They Said
"It shows how hard it is to win three games. Obviously we had a good plan and I think we stuck to it. Cody (Walker) made a massive difference; I think he had some really nice passes and touches. It was also great to see 'Foxx' in space, Bradman score some tries in front of 75,000 people. There's a lot of really good stuff to take out of tonight and you can only win the game in front of you and they did but we should have been better in Game One or Two. It is what it is, you can't change anything. I'm just glad our crowd got to see some really amazing moments with our speedsters in space and they could get off their chair and have a cheer." - Blues coach Brad Fittler
Blues: Game 3
"I felt NSW deserved the game tonight. They played better than us in a lot of areas and they deserve the victory. It looked like we were suffocated there for a lot of the game with their line speed, with their time on the ground and we just weren't quite willing to earn what we earnt in the first two games. And we put a lot of pressure on ourselves also so that compiles against you. The effort and the football that they've played over the collective three games, I feel like Queensland deserve the series so we got what we deserved tonight and we got what we deserved this series." - Maroons coach Billy Slater
Maroons: Game 3