state of origin game 3

State of Origin Game 3 preview from NRL pro punter Steve Green… including predicted score and suggested bet

While this has not felt like a typical Origin series, I think a decider in front of (hopefully) a packed Suncorp will provide a fitting finale for the 2020 season.

Game 1 was strange because of just how poorly NSW played, and just how little aggression there was. Game 2 was a bit of a letdown due to the unevenness of the outcome and the feeble resistance offered by Queensland.

However, I think we’re set for a beauty in State of Origin Game 3, for a few reasons…

Munster’s loss was huge

While it has been noted by the media, I’m not sure those raving about the form of Tedesco and Cleary in Game 2 appreciate just how disrupted the Queensland strategy was by the loss of Munster in the opening three minutes. On my player ratings, Munster is Queensland’s best player (just ahead of DCE and Papalli). He’s a leader, an aggressive defender and their best attacking weapon (not to mention a solid kicker). Although Queensland scored the first try, you could just tell Munster’s absence had knocked the confidence out of the Queensland team. Their line-up was not good enough to overcome such adversity. But if it was Tedesco or Cleary that went down after 3 minutes, then I think the score line for Game 2 would have been much closer!

Friend to be replaced by Grant?

On top of the immediate impact of losing Munster, his loss also threw the entire Queensland bench rotation. Hunt came on and played all game in the halves, performing very poorly. More troubling for Queensland, however, was the fact that Friend then played 80 minutes at 9. The tough number 9 has tried his hardest all series and has played better than I thought he would, however his lack of spark around the ruck was there for all to see in Game 2.

Without Hunt mixing things up around the ruck, Queensland were forced to shift it wide with some very predictable and pedestrian ball movement. Coach Bennett has recognised the need to change things up in the ruck and has named Grant at 14 in place of Hunt. While it’s likely this is how they will run out, I do think there’s a chance we will see a late shift, with Grant starting and either Friend or Hunt given a go at 14. Hunt has more versatility and offers more variation in his attack, so I would actually drop Friend entirely (which is what I said Queensland should go with before the season started).

Plus, Friend copped a big head knock in the second half of Game 2. While be bounced back up and bravely carried on, considering the way they handled Munster’s head knock and Cordner being ruled out for the series, a player like Friend – who has had a lot of concussion issues this year – should probably not be lining up on Wednesday night.

Sami should have never been there

While no one can doubt the coaching expertise of Bennett, he does have a history of making bizarre team selections:

  1. When coaching a Kangaroos team years ago, he played semi-retired Darren Smith over a young rampaging Trent Waterhouse.
  2. When coaching the British Lions on their last tour of Australia and PNG, he picked Blake Austin on the wing and left out George Williams altogether, opting to play a range of sub-standard halves ahead of the now Raiders star.

The decision to pick Sami in Game 1 was equally strange. Corey Allen or Edrick Lee were far better choices and although he got away with it in Adelaide, Sami was horrendous in Game 2.

While a lot of people are saying Allen should replace Holmes at 1, I think it’s more important to sort out the rest of the Queensland outside backs. While Gagai and Capewell have been good, the latter was exposed on defence last week and NSW will again go to him in Game 3.

If Brenko and Ed Lee are fit, they should be out there starting, along with Allen. Coates’ mysterious injury should not be risked. The young gun had a mixed night in Game 2 and looking a little ginger by the end of the game. If Brenko Lee does play, I would be tempted to move Gagai to the wing and leave Brenko in the centre position, where he has defended so well for the Storm this year.

While I know Bennett will not make all of the above changes discussed above, I do think a few are likely to be made. With a full house behind them and a better team than Game 2, Queensland are not out of this game by a long shot.

NSW played great in Game 2, but can they sustain that?

NSW dominated possession with a terrific completion rate (89%) and amazing kicking game (Queensland made only 43 kick return metres). While Coach Fittler would be mad not to try and replicate that strategy, I think Queensland will be far better prepared this time.

For instance, I’m sure Cleary will come in for plenty of treatment in this match. And a different pair of wingers should provide far better kick returns that the sluggish efforts we saw from Coates and Sami last Wednesday.

Cleary, Teddy, Cook and Walker were allowed to run rampant last Wednesday. But at home I am sure we will see Queensland with far better line speed in front of their parochial home crowd.

NSW forwards have not been as dominant as I thought they would be

NSW forwards have had an edge so far this series, but not by as much as I thought. Haas and Saifiti have been great up the front. Crichton is also having a big series. But Jake T, Frizell and Junior Paulo have all been well contained, and are averaging well below 100 metres a game.

Yeo, Brown and Finucane all did nothing wrong last Wednesday. But they came on when their team was in the ascendancy and in front of their own fans. I think the Queensland bench, with the likes of Collins, Arrow and Lui, can match these guys at home. I’m expecting Big Tino, Papalli and Welch to play like they did in Game 1 and take it to NSW up the middle. I think Grant provides amazing service. The Queensland go-forward will be much improved with the Rookie of the Year steering them around the ruck.

Summary

In a crazy season, where the performance of players and teams has been as volatile as I have ever seen, Queensland have shown enough to me to think that they can keep this decider really close. I am willing to ignore a lot of what transpired in Game 2. I think that was just one of those nights where nothing goes right for Queensland. They ran into a more hungry team at home.

I’m backing Bennett to get the Queenslanders to lift and I think we will see a classic Origin encounter. While I backed the overs in Game 2, I think that a more traditional style Origin encounter will see points hard to come by. I think we’ll see Queensland use spoiling tactics to great effect and turn this game into a old-school grind. I think Cleary’s goal kicking will be the difference here, and although I’m tempted to take the plus as well, I was hoping for a line of 8 to justify a bet on Queensland at the line.

State of Origin Game 3: Predicted score

NSW 18
Queensland 16

State of Origin Game 3: Suggested bet

Bet 2 units on total points under 41.5: currently $1.95 with TopSport

Final NRL Line Ladder for Season 2020.

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