Queensland avoided the humiliation of clean sweep in the State of Origin series as Ben Hunt's second-half double secured a 20-18 victory over New South Wales.

The Blues have been forced to play all three matches in Queensland due to coronavirus restrictions but made light of that apparent disadvantage by romping to 50-6 and 26-0 victories in the first two games.

Tuesday's encounter at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast proved to be a far more evenly contested affair, with Hunt's quickfire brace proving decisive when Latrell Mitchell fell short with a late long-range penalty that would have grabbed a draw.

Mitchell was also to the fore early on and it looked like being the same old story when he stepped into Damien Cook's pass and unfurled some deft footwork for a sixth try in seven State of Origin appearances, although the Blues' advantage was short-lived.

Queensland had led through Valentine Holmes' early penalty and he added the extras after 19-year-old debutant Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow capitalised upon fine work from Cameron Munster and Tino Fa'asuamaleaui's offload.

New South Wales went back ahead three minutes into the second half when five-eighth Jack Wighton dummied a pass and burst through to score.

Hunt then took centre-stage to decisively turn the contest – first staying low from dummy-half and sneaking under a pair of tackles to touch down, then rounding off a thrilling spell of Queensland pressure in the 65th minute.

Skipper Daly Cherry-Evans joined Holmes in going two from two from the kicking tee, making it 20-12, though such breathing space was short-lived.

Replacement hooker Api Koroisau latched on to Mitchell Moses' grubber in the 68th minute to set up a grandstand finish.

With two minutes to go, Mitchell took on a penalty from halfway to try to level the scores – he struck it cleanly but fell short in terms of distance and Queensland were able to hang on.

The NRL has moved the final match of the State of Origin series to the Gold Coast due to coronavirus restrictions in Newcastle.

It means New South Wales Blues – who lead the series 2-0 after rampant victories in the opening two games – have the chance to win three State of Origin matches in Queensland to complete what would be an unprecedented clean sweep.

Game one of the series was scheduled to be played in Melbourne, only for COVID-19 restrictions to force a switch to Townsville.

While game two took place as planned in Brisbane, game three – which is next week – was moved from Sydney's Stadium Australia to Newcastle's McDonald Jones Stadium.

However, with Sydney and the surrounding areas in lockdown, New South Wales' regional government advised that a major event with a crowd would not feasible. 

Gold Coast has been selected as a low-risk option, with both teams located close to the Cbus Stadium, which will be able to welcome a capacity crowd of around 27,000.

Though it means all three matches will have been held in Queensland, Blues coach Brad Fittler is unfazed.

"It's disappointing that we can't play at Newcastle and play in front of a NSW crowd," Fittler said. "But we will play anywhere, anytime."

The Blues thrashed the Maroons 50-6 in game one, before winning game two 26-0.

New South Wales Blues made a statement of intent in the first State of Origin match, thrashing Queensland Maroons 50-6 in Townsville.

The first match of the 2021 Origin series had been scheduled to be played on neutral ground in Melbourne, but lockdown measures in the state of Victoria resulted in a switch to Queensland.

Yet the Maroons' home advantage counted for little as Tom Trbojevic's hat-trick of tries inspired New South Wales to lay down a marker in the series.

Trbojevic, who scored a hat-trick in the 2019 State of Origin, was in sensational form once more, the 24-year-old Manly Sea Eagles star putting on a show as the Blues reached a half-century of points in an Origin game for just a second time.

Having lost prop Christian Welch to a failed head injury assessment after 13 minutes, the Maroons swiftly fell behind when Trbojevic ran in the game's first try, displaying all his speed and deft footwork.

Debutant winger Brian To'o helped himself to two tries in the space of five minutes, and although Kurt Capewell reduced the deficit to 20-6, there was no coming back for the hosts.

Trbojevic turned provider with a sublime grubber into Latrell Mitchell, who returned the favour for New South Wales' next try.

Xavier Coates' error enabled Mitchell grab a second, before Daniel Saifiti crossed and James Tedesco set up Trbojevic to fittingly have the final say in the Blues' biggest Origin victory to date.

Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium hosts the next match on June 27.

It is the end of an era in Melbourne and the NRL.

Cameron Smith – arguably rugby league's greatest ever player – ended speculation over his future by announcing his retirement on Wednesday.

The 37-year-old star and future Immortal retires a one-club player – Smith was out of contract following 18 years with Melbourne Storm.

After Smith officially put an end to his playing career midweek, we look into the numbers behind the Storm, Queensland Maroons and Australia legend thanks to Opta.

 

430 – Smith holds the record for most NRL games following a glittering career in the Australian competition, having debuted for the Storm in 2002. He is the only player to have amassed over 400 appearances.

310 – He also holds the record for most wins in premiership matches. Of those victories, 242 were as skipper – the most as a captain.

2,786 – No player has scored more points in NRL premiership history than the hooker, well ahead of Hazem El Masri (2,418) and Johnathan Thurston (2,222).

1,295 – Smith stands alone for goals kicked in the NRL – 353 more than any other player in premiership history.

16,913 – Not just an elite kicker, Smith tallied the most tackles by any player since the beginning of the NRL era in 1998.

3 – Smith ends his NRL career with Premierships in 2012, 2017 and 2020. It could have been five, but the Storm were stripped of Grand Final triumphs in 2007 and 2009 due to salary-cap breaches.

42 – A Maroons veteran, he is the most-capped player in State of Origin history. Smith first appeared for Queensland in 2003.

56 – Smith represented Australia more than fifty times. Only Darren Lockyer (59) managed more than Smith for the Kangaroos.

33 – Lockyer (38) is the only player to have captained Australia on more occasions than Smith, who led the country to Rugby League World Cup glory in 2013 and 2017.

2 – Smith was crowned the NRL's best and fairest player in 2006 and 2017. Only Thurston (four) and Andrew Johns (three) earned more honours.

Melbourne Storm and NRL great Cameron Smith officially announced his retirement from rugby league on Wednesday.

There had been ongoing speculation over Smith's future, with the NRL's most-capped player linked with both Brisbane Broncos and Gold Coast Titans after relocating from Melbourne.

But the 37-year-old star will retire a one-club player after a record 430 games with the Storm, three NRL Premierships and two Dally M Medals.

Smith also captained Australia to Rugby League World Cup success in 2013 and 2017.

"I've spent a few months now up in Queensland with the family. For me I look back on my career and just found that I'm very fortunate to be part of an organisation with great people and footballers," Smith said ahead of the 2021 season, which gets underway on Thursday.

"It felt like the right time after the finish to last year. You couldn't have asked for more than finishing with a premiership at a club I've played my whole career."

Smith was out of contract following 18 years with the Storm in Melbourne.

The 42-time Queensland Maroons legend, who earned 56 caps for Australia, led the Storm to NRL glory last year.

"I've been wrestling with the decision for quite some time. In the weeks after the season had finished guys like Billy [Slater] and guys I've grown quite close to, just trying to talk to them about my situation and how they came to the conclusion as to when it was the right time," Smith said.

"After last year winning the Premiership I still felt good physically and mentally. I still thought my form was good enough to play in the NRL but after spending time with my family in Queensland I knew it was the right time to finish.

"It's a chance to enjoy the next phase in my life and hopefully it's still in rugby league in some capacity. In my head I probably made the decision a week ago but knowing the unveiling was today and I was going to be in Melbourne I thought it was a good time to announce my decision.

"I started here with Billy at Olympic [AAMI] Park in 2002 so this is where I wanted to end it. Given the amount of time I've spent here and what I've built with Billy, Cooper [Cronk], Ryan Hoffman, Jesse Bromwich ... guys who have put in effort to build the Storm as an organisation.

"As a rookie I always thought I wanted to be a one-club player. Sometimes those choices are taken away from you but thankfully I've been able to do that for 19 years here."

Storm head coach Craig Bellamy added: "I think he's the greatest player I've ever seen. For what he's done, no one has gone over 400 NRL games and 100 rep games, and the success as captain it's quite remarkable.

"I can't see it happening again. It's hard to describe his effect on our club and the game. The biggest thing is how long he's done it for. When he told me this morning I was always genuine in that I said last year he deserved the right to make a decision when he was ready.

"For me the most important thing was that Cameron and his family be happy and I stand by that.

"It would've been strange for me to watch him in another jumper but that's obviously not going to happen. At the same time I still would've been his number one supporter even if he was playing against us.

"Hopefully we can keep Cameron around the club. If we can get him to give advice to our ruck plays and dummy half, his leadership is unparalleled."

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