Maroons prove point with close win
HE blamed himself when Queensland lost game two, but a field goal with five minutes to go by half-back Cooper Cronk gave the Maroons a thrilling 21-20 win and the State of Origin shield for an extraordinary seventh time at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night.
While Cronk was the hero, the star for Queensland were Greg Inglis who produced a powerhouse performance filling in for the injured Billy Slater at full-back.
Johnathan Thurston also turned in his best Origin game since taking over at five-eighth from Darren Lockyer, while Nate Myles again worked tirelessly and was rewarded with the man of the series award.
Just as the Maroons were able to send Lockyer out a winner last year, last night's victory provided the perfect farewell for retiring warhorse Petero Civoniceva.
The win was largely set up in the first half on the back of 20 minutes of domination by Queensland.
That started with a penalty to the home side in the 18th minute which saw Thurston find winger Darius Boyd who barged over in the corner for Queensland's first try.
Just minutes earlier the Maroons had been in an identical situation but Inglis went for the short pass despite Boyd waiting with a clear path to the try-line.
With Thurston unable to convert, Queensland trailed 8-4, but could have levelled soon afterwards had Justin Hodges tried to power over instead of trying to offload just metres out from the Blues tryline.
It didn't matter, however, because New South Wales were simply unable to make ground through the forwards.
With just two props in the line-up, James Tamou was replaced by back-rower Anthony Watmough with skipper Paul Gallen trying to fill-in as a front-rower.
That task was made more difficult given the enormous amount of tackling he also got through.
The situation was made worse when another second-rower in Ben Creagh, who had come on to replace prop Tim Grant, was knocked out in one of his first hit-ups.
Instead of getting a rest, Tamou was forced to come back on, but with limited influence.
Queensland took full advantage when Thurston made a crucial 50m line-up break to set another try, which he finished off himself next to the posts after an off-load from Corey Parker.
New South Wales did itself no favours by kicking out on the full from the restart, and Queensland was in again when Hodges sliced through the tiring defence to set up the 16-8 half-time lead.
It was a disappointing finish to the half by the Blues after an impressive start, particularly by winger Brett Morris.
A fabulous 40m bust just minutes into the game put the visitors in perfect position, but they elected to take a shot at goal from right in front after winning a penalty on the next tackle.
Morris was again involved in the 12th minute when he scored the opening try despite the best efforts of Sam Thaiday to hold up the ball.
Leading 8-0, the Blues looked on track for an upset, but as they had done in the last eight matches at Suncorp, Queensland hit back hard to lead at half-time.
New South Wales desperately needed to score first after the break, and when Brett Stewart got on the end of a Robbie Farah grubber for a try straight after the restart, the Blues were back in the game at 16-14.
Two successful penalty kicks by Thurston put Queensland out by a converted try, but the Blues set up the grandstand finish with a superb try to Josh Morris who reached over the top of Boyd to score in the corner.
Carney, whose kicking for goal had let him down earlier in the series, coolly slotted the conversion to set up the nail-biting finale.
Blues coach Ricky Stuart, the last man to have coached New South Wales to a series win back in 2005, didn't win back the Origin trophy for his state, but his players certainly won back respect.