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NSW Blues avoid sweep in State of Origin

Blues fans are seen during State of Origin 2023
NSW Blues fans Photo: PHOTOSPORT

New South Wales has salvaged State of Origin pride in a face-saving 24-10 victory over Queensland at the Sydney Olympic Stadium, with most of the changes to their squad paying off in a big way.

Three tries in a frantic 0-minute burst in the first half laid the foundations for New South Wales's triumph in front of 75,342 fans.

Brian To'o, Bradman Best and Josh Addo-Carr's sensational solo effort in 10 first-half minutes helped New South Wales to a 18-10 half-time lead.

Queensland had opened the scoring through David Fifita, with Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow also crossing in the first half with a tremendous solo score of his own.

But Best scored his second try midway through the second half to seal the win as New South Wales avoided becoming the fifth Blues side to be swept in over 40 years.

Queensland lifted the shield in enemy territory, having won the series 2-1, but player of the match Cody Walker was good enough in the dead rubber to wonder how things might have gone had he been picked before the major result was wrapped up.

Coming into Game III, Walker had a 2-2 win-loss record in State of Origin and lost his five-eighth jersey to Penrith's Jarome Luai in 2021.

But his return in Sydney gave New South Wales's attack a polish it had lacked through the 2023 series, with the left side of the Blues toying with Queensland's vaunted defence.

The 33-year-old put debutant Bradman Best over in the third minute and, while the bunker correctly overturned the decision, Walker and Best were far from finished.

The Blues' first try came through Brian To'o after a slick tap-on from another debutant, Keaon Koloamatangi, but even that started with a Walker-ochestrated break down the left.

Walker, who was recalled in place of Luai after the Blues lost the series in Brisbane, then combined with Best to put Addo-Carr away in the 21st minute, with the Blues winger neatly chipping, chasing and regathering to cap off a brilliant 60-metre effort.

He then handed Best his first try in sky blue with a brilliant cut-out pass across Liam Martin to complete the swing from a 6-0 deficit to a 16-6 lead.

Tabuai-Fidow hit back with a solo effort similar to Addo-Carr's, getting the ball from a standing start, accelerating through the line and grubbering for himself, but Stephen Crichton's late penalty goal kept NSW out in front at the break.

There was only one try in the second half, but again Walker was in the thick of it, getting James Tedesco on the outside and through the line to unleash Best for his second try on debut and seal the victory.

The 24-10 win for NSW extended the wait for an Origin clean sweep, which last occurred when the Maroons went 3-0 in 2010.

The Blues have not had one since 2000.

This story was first published by the ABC