The New South Wales Blues took a giant step closer to ending a run of three consecutive series wins by the Queensland Maroons with a hard-fought 22-12 win at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday night.
Across a gripping 80-minute display, there was the usual intensity, hard hits and niggle, as well as the standard controversy we’ve come to expect, but what did we learn from the contest?
1 Young Blues show no fear
While there were certainly times the Blues were behind in the match, both on the scoreboard and in terms of the momentum and flow of the contest, Brad Fittler's cadre of fresh faces and a handful of battle-hardened vets never looked over-awed by the arena or their opponent and were able to claw themselves back into the game and, ultimately, win 22-12.
With 11 debutants and just six returning stars thrust into the toughest test our sport has to offer, the sink-or-swim mentality came to the fore in a big way for the Blues as they stepped up, stemmed Queensland's edge-attacking offence and got the job done in Melbourne.
Led by the sublime James Tedesco and the irrepressible Damien Cook, the Blues never looked like accepting anything less than a win and they came home much the better side after some quick-fire second half points.
The 'Baby Blues' came of age quickly in a heated atmosphere.
2 Queensland valiant after horror build-up
For much of the last dozen years, the Maroons have approach each Origin contest with a settled line-up and relatively little fanfare or concern, a stark contrast to their neighbours south of the border.
This year, however, the Maroons were thrust into chaos, first by the shock retirement of Cameron Smith who followed Queensland greats Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk out the door and secondly by injury concerns.
Billy Slater was ruled out of the game entirely by a hamstring complaint while a cloud hung over halfback Ben Hunt and winger Dane Gagai for much of the camp.
While both Hunt and Gagai would play, and both would play well, there's little doubt a disrupted camp hurt the Maroons.
That said, Queensland found themselves very much in this contest to the end and, had a few fifty-fifty calls gone their way, could have pulled off an almighty upset such was their valiant effort in Melbourne.
3 We've got to talk about the referees
While I was personally fairly happy with the overall performance of the whistleblowers, we seem to have reached a point where anyone penning their thoughts on the game of rugby league must make comment on the supposed controversy or drama coming from their decisions throughout the course of a game.
Yes, there were a couple of questionable calls. A forward pass from James Maloney, which may or may not have simply floated forward after leaving his hands and what appeared to be an unpenalised strip by Angus Crichton both raised eyebrows, but much to the chagrin of the Phil Rothfield, Dean Ritchie and Tony Adams cabal, the game was controlled pretty well by the whistleblowers and it flowed nicely because of the way they managed it.
Brad Fittler praised the referees post-game, saying he thought they "did a good job," and it's hard to argue. Queensland or fear-mongering conspiracy aside, the game avoided becoming bogged down in penalties and that's what we were all hoping for.
4 The game's not doing too badly
Despite what certain sections of the media would have you believe leading into the contest on Wednesday night, the Melbourne Cricket Ground looked an absolute spectacle as 87,000 fans packed it out and enjoyed a gripping 80 minutes of football.
While we were constantly told that ticket sales were slow and the MCG faced the prospect of being half full (or less) by the time the game kicked off, a massive crowd turned out to enjoy a great spectacle and add another chapter to the storied history of the most intense rivalry the game of rugby league has to offer.
Some long-time senior figures amongst rugby league scribes would have you believe that the game is hanging onto the last scraps of its identity and the fans are leaving in droves. Newsflash, that's not the case.
5 James Tedesco, take a bow
While there were a handful of standout performers for the Blues on Wednesday night, Damien Cook and James Maloney chief among them, no one on the park had a better night than James Tedesco.
The man lured to Bondi by the Sydney Roosters in a desperate bid to land blows in a title fight, Tedesco suffered a slow start to his 2018 season but has slowly improved week on week before exploding as the best player in the game as the Blues notched a memorable 22-12 win at the MCG.
'Teddy' grabbed the first four-pointer of the game after a break by Damien Cook put Maloney into space, but it was his consistent breaks through the middle of the ruck that set him apart.
Tedesco managed 16 tackle breaks and ran for 224m in a blockbuster performance which carried the Blues to a momentous win.
What did you takeaway from the Blues' 22-12 win in Melbourne? Let us know in the comments below.
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