More good news followed. Queensland quickly showed signs of complacency after their left edge began piling on points against the Suaalii-less NSW flank. Jarome Luai’s grubber found James Tedesco for a nice fightback try to close the gap to two points. Benchmen Spencer Leniu and Haumole Olakau’atu brought an injection of energy as the Blues began to play on the scent of the impossible. You could have written Michael Maguire’s half-time pep talk because it was already in his players’ heads: win this one and you will live forever in Origin’s Elysian Fields, members of the team that achieved the miracle.

The bad news was that, as brave as they were, they were beginning to look very, very tired.

Two things about representative rugby league as it is played now, though. Because the teams only spend nine days together, coaching and planning must be so detailed, roles so pedagogically defined, that players sometimes struggle to adapt to the unexpected.

Queensland, with such a wealth of advantage, like farmers rolling in the cash from a resources boom, now grew unsure about what their new plan was to be. For the next hour, they were off their game. Being Queensland, the more the odds favoured them, the more they performed like a team that didn’t know their luck and didn’t know what to do. Five-eighth Tom Dearden said later they got “jumpy” when presented with such a dizzying menu of opportunities.

All NSW could do, by contrast, was play themselves to a standstill. All they had to play for was that miracle. No room for thought. In some ways, the gulf left by being one man down left the Blues at a psychological advantage. That’s definitely twisting it too far.


Eventually, the fatigue imbalance told. A long sweep up the right edge led to Hunt’s second try. Cherry-Evans put on a showtime kick for Xavier Coates to score. The Blues, a fighting quarter-chance at 10 points down with 13 minutes to go, conceded three converted tries in the last stanza of the game to produce a final result of 38-10, a scoreline that was, in the oddest of ways, flattering to Queensland.

The good news, yes. NSW were gutsy, they found their hearts and a kind of simple unity in adversity. For most of the game they made the best of a bad lot.

“Playing Queensland with 13 men was going to be hard enough,” Phil Gould opined on Channel Nine. But there was also some bad news. That’s their home game done. And Queensland still own that golden chip.

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