Valentine Holmes, take a bow.
It's all over. The game that decided so much more than just the 2017 State of Origin series has been won by Queensland on Wednesday night and the Maroon's era of dominance continues with their eleventh win in 12 years and 60th win in overall Origin history.
With veteran player Johnathan Thurston sitting injured on the sidelines for Game Three, Queensland coach Kevin Walters' experiment to change the team equation and play Cameron Munster in Thurston's place was always going to be a gamble for Queensland.
And that's when Holmes stepped up to score three of the Maroons' four tries -- the 5th-ever Queensland player to score a hat-trick of tries in State of Origin matches.
— NRL (@NRL) July 12, 2017
While the opening 10 minutes were as rough and as fast as every Origin decider should be, it only took 14 minutes before the Maroons, as they have done on so many occasions before, took the lead after winger Holmes fought off three Blues opponents to dive over the line. Try.
A Cameron Smith conversion left the match at 6-0 to Queensland and it wasn't long before things went from bad to worse for the Blues.
A minute after the restart to play, the Maroons were straight back on the attack with Billy Slater's quick feet and you could almost hear an all-too-familiar groan rumble across NSW as the first half began to slip away.
A lot of Queensland's success in winning 10 of the last 11 series' before this year came down to the efforts of the greats of the side in Slater, Smith and Cooper Cronk and this year seemed to be no different.
The Maroon's captain, Smith was running wild for pretty much the entire first half -- it almost seemed he was playing more than one position -- and then after a nicely-placed kick from Cronk that floated directly into Holmes' hands, the Blues were left stranded for another try to be scored against them.
The gamble was paying off.
Another Smith conversion, left the score at 12-0 in the first half-an-hour and NSW looked like the wind had been knocked out of its sails.
Could they actually do it for JT's final-ever Origin match? Would the new blood extend Queensland's run of success?
For the first time in a decade, NSW finally had the halves combination they've sought in James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce, and with the return of Jarryd Hayne to Origin, this series always looked like it could be the one the Blues snatch.
But if the first half of Origin III was anything to go by -- it just wasn't working.
On the way into the change-rooms, Pearce -- who was one of the main drivers behind the Blues' solid win in Game One -- told the Nine commentary team the lacklustre start came down to losing position in tackles.
With some lucky decisions that went against Queensland to reduce the try-count, he knew the score could have been a lot higher than just 12-0 and he knew things had to change for the Blues in the second half.
"It's a tough slog, we are really losing the ruck for all that period," he said.
"[Cameron Smith] is getting down, doing some damage around the ruck. We have got to get back in, get field position and fresh legs in the second half."
And in response? Queensland's Cronk simply said there's more work to do before the Maroons seal their 11th Origin victory in 12 series.
"That's what Origin is about, about hanging in there when you don't have it," he said. "We have had a fair bit of possession so our defence better hold up in the second half."
It didn't take long for NSW to take advantage of the Maroons defence, however, with a change to their game-plan in the second half. After the errors of the first forty minutes, the Blues came out running a little harder, tackling a little more efficiently and they made it count.
Josh Dugan managed to pick a ball out of the air right next to the Queensland try-line to score NSW's first points of the game, and with a James Maloney kick to come, the score was left at 12-6 after 50 minutes.
The game wasn't over yet.
After an hour of play, however, Munster finally had the chance to make his impact, Thurston-style.
He managed to break through the NSW team-line before running 30 metres, chucking a wild pass out to Holmes on the wing and sealing Queensland's third try of the night -- 16-6.
And as the cliché saying goes -- when it rains, it pours -- because just seven minutes later Jarrod Wallace crossed the line once more to leave the score at 22-6 and the fate of the NSW loss sealed.
In a post-match interview, Slater told commentator Darryn Lockyer the victory "is why you play the game".
"This is the enjoyment that the game brings you. To hear the crowd just driving on the bus, I could here the Queenslanders singing out 'Queenslander' on the side of the road," he said.
"It just sends goose bumps up your spine. It's a great feeling, mate."
And in the opposition camp, Maloney was understandably crushed by the defeat.
"Mate, as a team to put a performance like that on an occasion like this, mate, is horrible," he told commentator Brad Fittler.
"Mate, never going to win a game of footy playing like that. To do it at a moment like this, mate, it's, yeah, look it's horrible mate.
"NSW deserve better. Laurie [Daley] deserves better. The coaching staff. We haven't leaked 22 points all series. We leak it now.
"We scored more than six, you know, every other game... It is that disappointing."
The Maroons' captain, Smith also offered a heartwarming tribute to the injured Thurston during the post-match ceremony by lifting the State of Origin shield with him as a tribute to his past performances for Queensland.
"We've had our own presentations and our own sort of discussions around Johnathan's last game, which was Game Two. It was unfortunate that he couldn't finish here tonight in front of his beloved Queensland fans," he said.
"I've got to tell you, I don't know if I've come across a more passionate Queenslander and, mate, for what you've done in this jersey, I don't think anyone could ever thank you enough, mate.
"Mate, I reckon you're the greatest person or player that ever pulled on a maroon jersey. I just want to thank you on behalf of our team and everyone here tonight for what you've done."
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