The 80,000-strong crowd at Accor Stadium repeatedly chanted “New South Wales” and the Blues made frequent trips to half of the Maroons’ ground.
In the 74th minute, Blues debutant Stephen Crichton, who has scored goals for fun in Panthers colors for the past two seasons, tried to get out of the way. Cameron Munster on the way to the try line.
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The only problem was that Munster, an Origin veteran now in his sixth campaign, was one step ahead and snatched the ball from the 21-year-old’s grasp and handed possession back to the Maroons.
It was a great move from a big player and left those more than used to their own clutch game stunned.
“There are 90,000 people in the stadium, only one person would think that,” Blues icon Andrew Johns called on Nine’s reporting.
“If you’re under pressure 10 meters from your line, who would think of that? That’s a superstar. What a player.”
former representative of Munster and captain of the club, Cameron Smithwas equally surprised.
“These big plays here, he’s 40 feet from the Queensland tryline, who’s thinking about doing that?” he said.
“I know Stephen Crichton wasn’t. He didn’t expect Cameron Munster to strip the ball. When he has the ball in his hand, he just mesmerizes defenders.”
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Munster finished the game with 19 runs, 188 yards and eight tackle breaks, and was named man of the match, providing comparisons to the great Wally Lewis in the process for its iconic Origin I rendition.
“He gets closer to (Lewis) by the way he plays,” Maroon icon Paul ‘Fatty’ Vautin said Nine.
“He’s an instinctive player, just like Wally Lewis. Wally wasn’t structured by any imagination, but he was instinctive, just like Cameron Munster.
“He and me Kalyn Pongaif they do what they do good things happen for Queensland.”
Munster, like his teammates, continued to gasp in the moments after the final whistle, having strained every tendon to take a 1-0 lead over Perth for game two.
“It will go down in history as one of the hardest games I’ve ever played,” he told Nine’s post-game panel.
“No penalties in the first half and not much in the second half and you can tell by the way I speak, I’m still trying to catch my breath.
“That’s the best thing about Origin, just how fast the game is.”
Part of Munster’s brilliance comes from his ability to combine ad-lib football with structured, disciplined play, allowing him to rush through the opponent’s defense at any moment. The ability to combine both is a trait he’s acquired over time, Smith said.
“It’s an element of his game that he’s improved over the years where he’s put some structure into[his game],” the Storm icon said.
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“He is always at his most dangerous when he plays from the edge. He just gets the ball, looks up and when he sees an opportunity or an opportunity to run the ball, he runs it.”
“He has the gift of holding the ball with both hands, he shows, he shows, he shows himself in to support and the defenders just watch the ball.
“I think that’s part of his game where he’s improved a lot in recent years, especially in my last season in 2020 he went to another level. He’s matured so much, he’s had a great season and he’s getting the rewards for it now.”
After playing a heroic part in the unlikely triumph of the Maroons in 2020, Munster already holds a Wally Lewis Medal. Keep it up and he will leave the Suncorp Stadium after game three with his second.
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