State of Origin passion can’t be matched outside this arena. When the first whistle blows, something is switched on inside both teams – it is a passion that flows through generations, passed down from player to player. It doesn’t matter who pulls on those blue and maroon jerseys; it is as if history lives within them.
Not even a chilly Canberra evening or the fact that this Origin series was only comprised of one match could kill that passion. From the very first kick-off, the intensity was turned up several notches from an NRLW season that was already fierce in its own right.
Buoyed by a record crowd for a women’s Origin match of over 11,000 spectators, the Blues looked clinical and dominant, making strong meters down the field whenever they had the ball in hand.
But despite that dominance, they found that Queensland would not go away no matter what. While NSW powered down the field, Queensland kept hanging on. They waited for their opportunities – and whether those came through penalties or errors, they pounced. They would not be shut out of the game.
While NSW was smart and tactical, taking the kick for goal on consecutive penalties to extend their lead, Queensland played with their hearts on their sleeves and their eyes on the try line.
Two debutants lit up the field most brightly – one on each team and both Olympic gold medalists. The Blues’ Emma Tonegato looked dangerous every time she touched the ball, going close to scoring the first time she encountered the try line and then pulling out an impossible-looking effort, pouncing on a grubber kick just centimeters short of the dead ball line for NSW’s first points of the match.
For the Maroons, Evania Pelite showed off her rugby background to take an offload that looked like a rolling maul transfer and score a pivotal try for Queensland in the second half that looked to shift the momentum in favor of the Maroons firmly.
But that try – which brought the Maroons within two points of the lead – turned up the Blues’ passion and ignited that mysterious Origin spirit. It made them realize that smart and clinical would not win this game. Holding on to a two-point lead and perhaps finding another opportunity to push it out with a penalty wasn’t going to do it either. The only way to beat Queensland is to keep powering forward and look to score tries from every play. Once they had found that switch, the Blues were back in the game.
The first half was a high-scoring affair, with tries on offer almost every time the teams entered the opposition’s 10 meters. Still, the second half was a grind, and every scoring opportunity seemed monumental, so it took plenty of effort to push for those points and inch their way toward the try line.
The Blues thought they had sealed the win when Tiana Penitani crossed the line, only to have it denied by a perhaps overzealous bunker which ruled a knock on what seemed to almost everybody else to be a pass. Then Queensland thought they had secured the series, only to have Julia Robinson and Shenae Ciesiolka ruled offside.
NSW finally turnedpassturned passionts when Caitlan Johnston blew through the Queensland line, and a fast-moving ball found its way out to player of the match Isabelle Kelly, who had been in sensational form all night.
With Origin moving into a two-match series format from 2023 – this win gives the Blues all-important ascendancy, knowing it will only take one win next year to keep the shield south of the Tweed. Though with what they learned in this final standalone Origin match, there is no doubt they will be fully focused on getting a clean sweep.