They couldn’t take this one off Andrew Fifita.
The New South Wales and Cronulla wrecking ball reinforced why he is fast building a reputation as one of the NRL’s premier big-game players after turning in a barnstormer in the Blues’ State of Origin I win.
NSW monster forward Andrew Fifita was named man of the match for his inspirational performance. (AAP: Dave Hunt)
After scoring one try, playing an important role in another two, running for 153 metres and busting seven tackles, the giant NSW prop was named man of the match in NSW’s 28-4 victory.
The last time Fifita turned in a match-winning display in a big game, he was overlooked for the Clive Churchill Medal in the Sharks’ grand final — despite scoring the match-winning try.
Fifita stepped onto Lang Park last night as a man on a mission to tick off the final item on his bucket list — an Origin series win.
After winning a premiership, a World Cup and cementing his spot in the Australian side, a series win with NSW is the only thing left for the 27-year-old western Sydney product to achieve in the game.
“This is what you live for — big games like these,” Fifita said.
“Big games like for the Aussies. It’s the pinnacle.
“This is pretty much a trial match to be part of that World Cup squad. I thought I did my job, I got the starting gig I always wanted.
“It was a goal to start and at the end of the day I thought I did my state proud and my jersey proud.”
From the opening whistle Fifita got NSW on a roll.
He made several Queensland would-be tacklers including Nate Myles and Matt Gillett look very ordinary before passing inside for James Maloney to score the game’s first try.
By the time Fifita went off for a concussion test at the 22-minute mark, he had already run for 75m.
And when he was passed fit, he made a bullocking run with his first touch of the football which put Queensland on the back foot and opened up space for Mitchell Pearce to cross just before the break.
Fifita’s 55th-minute try sealed the result and summed up NSW’s night when Justin O’Neill dropped the ball cold on his own goal line and the front-rower pounced to score and make it 22-4.
“He’s shown in the past, especially in the grand final, he’s really playing well in the big games,” skipper Boyd Cordner said.
“He’s always a relaxed character and the boys feed off that.
“He’s a great player and he showed that with a couple of his plays that got us on the front foot, how damaging he can be.”