For once, NSW had the final say in a State of Origin match. Brad Fittler’s team managed to do a Queensland on Queensland, even if the result was long beyond doubt.
Players in Blues jerseys, who were on the cusp of NSW’s biggest-ever Origin win over the Maroons, scrambled from all corners to first stop Xavier Coates – and then Dane Gagai – scoring in the dying minutes of the series opener on Wednesday night.
It didn’t matter to the overall result, but it mattered to the Blues coach.
And it’s exactly the type of message Fittler conveyed to his team on Thursday morning after their record-breaking 50-6 annihilation of a stunned Maroons in Townsville.
“There’s been plenty of games where we haven’t had the last say,” Fittler said. “I thought that was the full stop. It was the play of the night. That’s the play we take into Brisbane.”
So for all of Tom Trbojevic’s twinkle toes and Latrell Mitchell’s magic, Fittler was at pains to point out the effort of Isaah Yeo and Origin rookie Brian To’o holding up Gagai. Latrell Mitchell and Jack Wighton had also rushed to turn Coates away moments earlier.
Yeo was playing just his third Origin game and managed to punch out the entire 80 minutes in the middle as the Blues feasted on eight tries, three of which were scored by the unstoppable Trbojevic.
“We just made sure we kept moving for one another,” Yeo said of the last-ditch tackle. “I think if anyone was in the same position they would have made the same play. I didn’t want to let anyone down, particularly at this level. You just can’t let anyone down.