NEW South Wales lost the game, missed the whitewash but still won the war.

The Blues were brave, bold and heroic - but just couldn't secure that historic three-nil clean sweep.

Queensland salvaged some pride from a lost series with a gripping 18-12 win at Suncorp Stadium.

NSW won the series 2-1.

Despite the heartbreaking loss, NSW skipper Boyd Cordner still held the shield high and proud at the post-match presentation.

The Blues left the field feeling gutted - but they shouldn't.

It was an epic game of rugby league. Footy at its best.

Valentine Holmes crosses the line first. (AAP Image/Jono Searle)
Valentine Holmes crosses the line first. (AAP Image/Jono Searle)

Brad Fittler's Baby Blues have reignited State of Origin football in NSW.

Billy Slater's farewell match for Queensland was a fairytale. Suncorp Stadium has been his field of dreams for the past 12 years.

The Blues have now won two of the past five series. Their future looks bright.

This crop of kids will take NSW well into the future.

In a frenetic finish, NSW threw everything at Queensland - but couldn't score.

Maloney got his marching orders for this foul on Slater. (Peter Wallis)
Maloney got his marching orders for this foul on Slater. (Peter Wallis)

The Blues were simply exhausted.

Manly and Queensland star Daly Cherry-Evans was brilliant. He kicked NSW to death.

His lethal boot kept the Blues on the back foot for most of the first half.

The match started in controversy when NSW centre Latrell Mitchell was penalised in just the second minute for a heavy shoulder charge on Slater. It was Slater's first carry of the match, a kick return.

And then was more drama involving Slater just a minute later.

 

Off you go, Jimmy! (Phil Hillyard)
Off you go, Jimmy! (Phil Hillyard)

 

A Cherry-Evans cross-field kick saw Slater leap above Cleary to score a try which sent the crowd into a frenzy.

But replays showed Slater fumbled the ball forward into Cleary - the try disallowed. It would have been a fairytale moment for Slater.

The Maroons did finally score first, and the try came through a familiar passage of play.

Blues fullback James Tedesco threw a pass which was intercepted by Queensland winger Valentine Holmes, who ran 95 metres untouched to score.

It was the second time this series Holmes has run the length of the field to score from an intercept. Holmes converted to give Queensland a 6-0 lead.

 

The Blues celebrate after James Tedesco late first-half try. (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
The Blues celebrate after James Tedesco late first-half try. (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

 

After 25 minutes of play, Queensland enjoyed more than 70 per cent of possession. The Blues' scrambling defence kept them in the game.

NSW defended six successive sets. It was 17 sets to eight at one point, NSW had five dropouts.

Queensland appealed for a penalty try in the 30th minute when Slater, chasing a Cameron Munster kick, was taken off the ball by NSW five-eighth James Maloney.

It was a professional foul but a 10-minute sin bin for Maloney did seem harsh. Holmes kicked the penalty goal to give Queensland an 8-0 lead.

The penalty gave did NSW a much-needed breather, some suggested though that Queensland should have continued to attack a tiring Blues side

Then, incredibly, NSW scored twice in the final three minutes of the first half to lead 12-8 at halftime.

Valentine Holmes does it again. (Peter Wallis)
Valentine Holmes does it again. (Peter Wallis)

With Queensland on the attack, NSW struck through Manly star Tom Trbojevic.

A Cameron Munster pass was intercepted by Trbojevic, who ran 90 metres untouched to score a try. It was a kick in the guts for Queensland.

The Blues' first penalty didn't arrive until the 39th minute. Still the count was a lopsided 5-1.

With just 13 seconds remaining in the first half, Blues hooker Damien Cook slipped a short ball to fullback James Tedesco, who found a whopping hole - left by Queensland forward Josh McGuire - to score.

Cleary's conversion gave NSW a shock 12-8 halftime lead. It was extraordinary given the amount of defence NSW had to endure.

 

Daly Cherry-Evans got the moment he craved. (Phil Hillyard)
Daly Cherry-Evans got the moment he craved. (Phil Hillyard)

 

Queensland scored first in the second half - again it was Holmes - to level the scores at 12-all.

And then the Maroons kicked ahead in the 58th minute when halfback Daly Cherry-Evans flashed over after a break from Cameron Munster.

Holmes 'conversion gave Queensland an 18-12 lead.

 

A sore sight for NSW eyes. (Phil Hillyard)
A sore sight for NSW eyes. (Phil Hillyard)

 

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