NSW coach Brad Fittler was fuming after Origin III due to a pair of “dodgy” calls that helped Queensland win.
The Maroons took what proved to be a winning 20-12 lead in the 64th minute when Ben Hunt scored a try. On the previous tackle, Kalyn Ponga was not called by referee Gerard Sutton for a possible knock-on; in which the ball fell well behind the fast-moving Queensland fullback, yet may have gone forwards off his hands after he botched a flick pass from winger Xavier Coates.
Fittler also took issue with the lead-up to an early penalty goal for Queensland, in which Dane Gagai collided with Latrell Mitchell and both players may have knocked-on, yet nothing was called.
Different refereeing decisions could have made all the difference in a 20-18 NSW loss, which denied the Blues their first Origin clean sweep since 2000.
“I think a few things went their way and I thought they took advantage of it. I thought they were pretty good,” Fittler said of Queensland in his post-match press conference, having hammered the Maroons by a combined 76-6 in the first two games.
“There’s a few decisions I thought were pretty dodgy, weren’t happy with, but at the end of the day…
“I thought the Ponga one on the right-hand side before the try, I thought that was a knock-on. I thought before the goal-kick, I thought Latrell got pushed in the back, that led to their goal-kick.
“I thought they were … I haven’t seen the replay but when I first saw the knock-on down the side, I thought that was an obvious call.”
Yet Fittler admitted that his team still had enough opportunities to win towards the end of the match.
“We still had three sets on their line, which we’re more disappointed about. We couldn’t score,” Fittler said.
State of Origin Game 3 – Highlights
Fittler said his team’s attacking struggles were so pronounced by the end of the match that he couldn’t fault the decision to have Latrell Mitchell attempt a potentially match-tying penalty goal from beyond the halfway line in the final two minutes.
The kick fell short and was NSW’s last proper use of the football, barring a single tackle inside their own half that ended the game.
“I wasn’t surprised,” Fittler said of the decision to take the penalty attempt.
“We’d had three sets on their line and hadn’t scored a try, so it wasn’t a dumb decision. I was quite happy with them backing themselves. I’ve been watching him (Mitchell) kick goals for three weeks now, 50 (metres) is normally not his problem.
“I think the way we were attacking on their line didn’t give me much confidence we were going to score a try anyway.”
Sutton copped plenty of criticism for his Origin III refereeing performance, having given a mountain of six-again calls. The penalty count ended 5-2 to Queensland.
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