State of Origin passion is something that 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 the history lives within the jerseys themselves.
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 metres down the field whenever they had ball in hand.
But despite that dominance, they found that no matter what, Queensland would not go away. 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 were 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.
It was two debutants who 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 centimetres 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 firmly shift the momentum in favour of the Maroons.
But it was that try – which brought the Maroons within two points of the lead – that turned up the Blues’ passion and ignited that mysterious Origin spirit. It seemed to make them realise that smart and clinical was not going to 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 metres, but 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 towards the tryline.
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 on what seemed to almost everybody else to be a pass. Then it was Queensland who thought they had secured the series, only to have Julia Robinson and Shenae Ciesiolka ruled offside.
NSW were finally able to turn passion into points 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 learnt in this final standalone Origin match, there is no doubt they will be fully focused on getting a clean sweep.