Anatomy of an Origin miracle: How Queensland exposed the one NSW player out of position

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They did what?

With only 12 men, the clock ticking down and hemmed against the right sideline, Cameron Munster and the Maroons produced another State of Origin miracle with a try scored by a bloke many thought shouldn’t have been chosen.

But NSW should have known it was coming.

Since Billy Slater took over as Queensland coach last year, his side has never been afraid to spread the ball inside their own half to make metres. Other NRL teams adopt a more risk-free method and try to make yardage with traditional runs through the middle.

So, how did Queensland pull off a try which triggered one of the greatest backs-to-the-walls wins in Origin history in Adelaide on Wednesday night?

Hynes-sight for Fittler?

For a week there have been questions about how Brad Fittler would get debutant Nicho Hynes into the game as NSW’s utility. His chance finally arrived when Tom Trbojevic was taken for a concussion test with 12 minutes left. Hynes would have to play at right centre.

Traditionally a halfback, it is a foreign defensive position for the Dally M winner and the Maroons fired an immediate warning shot when they made a long shift to the left on an attacking set.

What Munster would have seen in his old Storm teammate was an eagerness to get quickly off his own line given he was fresh on the field, charging forward in front of the two men defending next to him, Nathan Cleary and Josh Addo-Carr, perhaps leg-weary having already played 70 minutes.

In Hynes and Cleary, Munster saw two players who are usually No.7s defending alongside each other.

Nicho Hynes finds himself in unfamiliar territory.Credit: Nine

The move almost creates a try when Queensland winger Murray Taulagi finds a bit of space on the outside after Reece Walsh tries to take advantage of Hynes defending out of position. Hynes gets back and drags Taulagi down while he is on the ground, the Cowboys star landing face first.

But Munster saw enough to go back to that side of the field again just a minute later.

“Munster was quiet and it scared the hell out of me,” Blues assistant coach and Nine commentator Andrew Johns says.

“Then all of a sudden he just explodes. In the big moments when the game is on the line you want your best players handling it, and that’s when he came to the fore.”

The go-ahead try came shortly after Valentine Holmes was brought down on the opposite side of the field.Credit: Getty

NSW marooned out wide … against 12 men

The Blues safely navigated their way through the next set and the long clearing kick to Walsh was caught by the debutant, who immediately threw a spiral pass to Valentine Holmes, now playing on the wing due to Selwyn Cobbo’s injury, from the kick return.

What happened next was crucial. Referee Ashley Klein stopped play to order Taulagi from the field for a head injury assessment.

Slater’s coaching came to the fore in game one, with all of his side’s first four tries coming after a stoppage in play or a Blues error. Each gave Munster and Daly Cherry-Evans some rare thinking time to construct the next set, and they had it again with only 12 men while Tom Flegler was in the sin-bin.

Having used it successfully in game three of last year’s series, the Maroons reverted to a long shift out of trouble again.

The first two plays after Taulagi’s exit were standard hit-ups from Lindsay Collins and Jai Arrow, but importantly they went to the left side of the ruck both times. Many teams will work to a position on the field they’re comfortable to use a set play from, and this was clearly in Queensland’s wheelhouse.

From there it allowed them to shift all the way to the right on the next play, starting with Pat Carrigan at first receiver so Cherry-Evans could stand wider from the ruck. The captain shovelled the ball to Walsh and it eventually ends up with Holmes, who makes metres down the right.

Holmes was collared by four NSW defenders, Penrith teammates Brian To’o, Stephen Crichton, Jarome Luai and Liam Martin.

Stephen Crichton and Jarome Luai head back to the short side, ruling themselves out of defending against what happens next.Credit: Nine

Two of them — Crichton and Luai — peeled off the tackle and then jogged back into the defensive line down the short side. It would render two NSW defenders redundant on the next play.

With 12 men, suddenly Queensland had a chance of finding space on the other side of the field and Slater’s team followed one big shift with another all the way to the other side of the field. Having started with Holmes’ play-the-ball on the right touchline, the Maroons’ spun it to the far left straight away.

Again, an eager Hynes is disconnected with Cleary and Addo-Carr by coming up quicker, and Munster gets the ball and runs straight at him. In the process he attracts the eyes of Hynes, who joins Cleary trying to make the tackle. Munster touching the ball also had an effect on Addo-Carr, who backed off rather than coming up in unison with Hynes.

Cameron Munster ties up former teammate Nicho Hynes to create the overlap.Credit: Nine

Once he bust the attempted tackle of Cleary and Hynes, the Queensland magician was able to release Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, who would swerve past a slipping James Tedesco at fullback to put the Maroons ahead for good.

“It’s just little things that make a difference,” Johns says. “The amount of players that were slipping over was too many. When you’re playing at night on a slippery surface you need longer sprigs.”

Despite having their centres playing on the wing, and Ben Hunt and David Fifita in the centres, Queensland found the one NSW player defending out of position and made the Blues play.


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