Brad Fittler has backed his controversial call to selected untested pairing Jack Wighton and Mitch Moses in the halves in the absence of injured duo Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai in Wednesday's 20-18 Origin III loss.
Having lost both in-form halves and effectively needing to start from scratch, there was a school of thought that Souths duo Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker – each in good form and each with Origin experience, with their club hooker Damien Cook one of three Rabbitohs already in the side – was the way to go.
"No," was Fittler's simple response when asked if the Souths pairing should have played instead.
"Mitchell Moses had the kick for the (Koroisau) try. Jack Wighton scored a try. So I'm not sure where your argument is. I thought they were great. I was really happy with Mitchell Moses. I thought his defence was great. They threw a lot at him.
"Mitchell's defence was outstanding and Jack Wighton's. There's always two sides to a game."
Two sides to a game: Moses and Wighton combination did their job for Fittler
Moses's defence was excellent, with a series of vital one-on-one tackles nullifying several Maroons raids. The Eels playmaker was heavily targeted, especially early, but bounced back from several big knocks.
However the Wighton-Moses combo regularly failed to capitalise on attacking chances, looking very much like strangers in a clunky first half before Moses sparked to life in the second, sending Wighton over with a handy pass and producing two separate last-play kicks in one passage to eventually set up Api Koroisau with a well-directed inside grubber.
Wighton's kicking game was found wanting several times with two costly seven-tackle sets given away, while Moses's long boot was more reliable.
Fittler admitted the side was never really in control of the match despite having thoroughly dominated the opening two games of the series and was scathing of their inability to find points in repeat sets on the line.
"I don't think it slipped away. I didn't feel like we were in control at any stage really," he said.
"We had our chances at the death but we weren't playing good enough to take those chances."
One of those late chances was a penalty goal attempt from Latrell Mitchell on halfway to try and force golden point – a decision Fittler was comfortable with.
"I wasn't surprised – we'd had three sets on their line and hadn't scored a try," he said.
"It wasn't a dumb decision. I was quite happy with them backing themselves, I've been watching them kick goals three weeks now, 50 is normally not (Mitchell's) problem.
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"I think the way we were attacking on their line didn't give me much confidence we were going to score a try anyway."
While wrapping up the series in straight sets despite being forced to play the whole series in Queensland was "a great effort" Fittler added "it's hard to be delighted" with the way the series finished.
"It is the nature of the beast and I'd never want to change the way it is and hopefully it spurs them on if we get another opportunity (for a clean sweep)," he said.
"They were really good this year but it's hard to be delighted tonight.
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"A few things went [Queensland's] way and they took advantage of it ... I thought they were the better side."
Fittler also praised the Origin comeback series produced by both Latrell Mitchell – who was dropped in 2019 – and man of the series Tom Trbojevic, who missed last year through injury.
"They did all the damage in the first two games without a doubt," Fittler said.
"I thought Queensland did a good job on them tonight, they had their defence well in order.
"Latrell made the most of minimal opportunity but when he's playing you're just going to get more fans and crowds. There's a couple of players out there tonight that are just brilliant, fantastic to watch and he's one of them."
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