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This year’s State of Origin series concludes in Brisbane on Wednesday and, while Queensland will enjoy home advantage for the decider, one fancies New South Wales, led by its pack of emerging young forwards, will win the big match.
New South Wales coach Laurie Daley was able to put out his preferred pack in State of Origin II – Blues skipper Paul Gallen was available after missing the series opener – and the result was a dominant performance in which Queensland could not generate any significant forward momentum. New South Wales limited the metres that Queensland starting props Nate Myles and Matt Scott made and, whereas only one Maroons forward ran for more than 100m, no fewer than four Blues big blokes racked up three figures in Sydney.
The State of Origin II man of the match award went to New South Wales left centre Michael Jennings for 139m run, 10 tackles and one try but, while the Sydney star had a good game, it was a travesty that the honour did not go to his Blues teammate, Aaron Woods, who was magnificent throughout his 53 minutes on the field. Woods ran for 165m – more than any other New South Wales player – he made 25 tackles and he broke through Queensland’s line to score the try that turned the match in favour of the Blues. Most media organisations nominated Woods as the game’s most valuable player and the decision to give the official prize to Jennings was a major talking point in the days immediately following the match.
Woods has come of age in both the National Rugby League and State of Origin arenas this season and, if New South Wales does retain the shield, he is almost guaranteed to have had a great game in the middle of the pitch. New South Wales is trading at odds of 7/5 2.40 +140 1.40 1.40 -0.71 with 888Sport and Unibet to win in Brisbane but the purpose of this weekly column is to flag bets at long odds that have a good chance of winning. Woods is available at odds of 14/1 15.00 +1400 14.00 14.00 -0.07 with several bookmakers, including BetVictor and Unibet, to be the official man of the match and that strikes one as being generous.
Betting on the first try scorer in rugby league games is a popular exotic option and there are grounds for supporting New South Wales flier Brett Morris at odds of 11/1 12.00 +1100 11.00 11.00 -0.09 with PaddyPower. Morris lined up against a decent defender, Queensland right winger Will Chambers, in State of Origin II but Chambers has been named at left centre for Wednesday’s blockbuster, with Dane Gagai coming in to wear jumper number five. Gagai is nowhere near as reliable in defence as Chambers and one can see New South Wales going down that side of the field when the opportunity to throw the ball wide presents itself – on the edges it will be Jennings and Morris against Justin Hodges and Gagai.
Before this year’s State of Origin got under way, one was of the opinion that Queensland would win all three matches and regain the shield. Queensland won Origin I but only because New South Wales froze in the big moments. Queensland lost Origin II because it could not handle the New South Wales pack. And Queensland is likely to lose Origin III because its back line is not at full strength – Billy Slater is out through injury – and its ageing forwards look second best.
New South Wales should be vying for State of Origin III favouritism even though there will be around 50,000 mad Queensland supporters cheering for the Maroons. There is nothing wrong with backing New South Wales at odds of 7/5 2.40 +140 1.40 1.40 -0.71 to win the game but, for punters who love a speculative bet or two, the Woods and Morris gambles are the ones to have. Be careful with Brett Morris – his twin brother, Josh, is in the New South Wales side as well so check your bets.
Brett Morris first try scorer
8th July 11:10 GMT
Odds: 11/1 12.00 +1100 11.00 11.00 -0.09
Where to Bet: PaddyPower