Perhaps the result was colouring his judgement but former Blues coach Phil Gould, who has seen a few in his time, called it one of the greatest Origins ever.
It’s hard to argue.
The ‘Baby Blues’,as they have been christened, were hanging on to an 18-14 lead coming into the final ten minutes, playing with one player short after James “Jimmy the Jet” Roberts had been sent to the sin bin for a needless professional foul on Gavin Cooper.
NSW were clinging on grimly as the Maroons pounded their line, it seemed just a matter of time till Queensland struck the killer blow.
But unlike what has happened almost every series for the last thirteen years this time Queensland were the team to crack.
As an almost speechless Maroons captain Greg Inglis said at the end of our game: “We had our chances.”
They certainly did but this time it was Queensland’s turn to panic, to force the pass, to over-hit the kick, to let a winning position slip through their fingers.
It was a curious thing to witness – the Maroons failing to win the big moments – as when you talk about Queensland you are talking about true sporting greatness.
Written off after game one after a poor loss in Melbourne the (usually) magnificent Maroons were all set to hit back in game two and set up a decider in Brisbane, which they would be hotly anticipated to win.
It was the same pattern of so many State of Origin games over the last decade plus, where Queensland claimed all but one series victories.
Fortune favours the brave in Origin and the team that has the confidence to play under immense pressure usually comes out on top – the returning Billy Slater gave the Maroons that confidence.
As Gould perfectly summed it up: “Confidence that comes from demonstrated ability.”
Usually NSW go into their shell and run one out – easy to pick off by the Maroons – and as Queensland raced to a 10-0 lead after just 20 minutes it looked like it was all running to script.
But rather than disintegrate, as they did in game three last year, this unscarred NSW team worked out how to contain Slater and somehow, against the run of play, took the lead into half-time 12-10.
We had seen this before as well – NSW led 16-6 at half time in game two last year but Queensland were still able to fight their way back to win 18-16 and go on to claim the series in Brisbane.
But again the Baby Blues broke the mold. NSW’s own version of Greg Inglis, 21-year-old Roosters centre Latrell Mitchell, was too big and too strong outwide and burst over to put NSW up 18-10 on 50 minutes.
Queensland hit back through a try to Will Chambers on 63 minutes to make it 18-14 and it seemed that it would just be a matter of time till the Maroons broke NSW hearts – again.
But somehow 12-man NSW held on, helped by the uncharacteristic mistake-prone Queenslanders.
Even the great Slater, perhaps unnerved by a huge Mitchell tackle on Cameron Munster on 52 minutes, threw a crazy forward pass which smacked of him taking a look over his shoulder.
But still it wasn’t over as NSW offered the Maroons chance after chance but again and again Queensland could not grasp it – and the Blues held on for just their second series win since 2005.
The momentum has decidedly shifted to the NSW side of the border and with youth and depth on the Blues side, it may take Queensland a little while to get the prized shield back.
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