Blues salvage some pride by snatching late win
NEW South Wales produced a miracle win of its own over Queensland as captain Paul Gallen kicked a farewell Origin goal in a pulsating 18-14 victory at ANZ Stadium.
Queensland rookie coach Kevin Walters looked like winding back the clock 21 years as he and his mighty Maroons were one minute away from emulating the feat of Paul Vautin in winning his maiden State of Origin series 3-0.
This time though it was the Blues who produced something special in the final minute after fullback James Tedesco was dragged down in a desperate tackle centimetres short of the try line.
The Blues switched play to the left and when centre Michael Jennings scored his sixth Origin try the crowd of 61,267 erupted.
Queensland fullback Darius Boyd looked like he had plucked victory from the jaws of defeat with a juggling try in the 75th minute to grab back the lead from the Blues 14-12.
But this is a new-look Blues side under coach Laurie Daley, who is Origin through and through, and this time they were able to conjure up a special try that could well give them the confidence to challenge even harder next year.
Gallen, who ended his Origin career on a memorable note kicking the final conversion, praised the character of his players.
"That was a tough, they're always tough playing against a great Queensland side," he said. "Our execution was outstanding tonight and our effort has been great in every game, but, to their credit, Queensland have been better than us.
"But stick with the Blues now, I think NSW will get the (series) win next year."
Champions teams are never beaten and this Queensland side is full of champion players who find a way to finish the job and play for 80 minutes.
However NSW had so much more to play for, fighting to avoid a series clean sweep and to send off their captain Gallen a winner in his 24th and final Origin game.
The Blues were on track for victory leading 12-4 before Blues forward Andrew Fifita's stunning brain explosion left them a man down after debutant Gavin Copper crashed over in the 52nd minute to make it 12-10.
The danger signs surfaced early for the Blues after just five minutes when Origin's greatest try scorer, Greg Inglis, slid across the line for his 18th touchdown after some sweet lead-up from Johnathan Thurston and fullback Darius Boyd, who delivered the final pass for 4-0 lead.
As expected, the niggle began to creep into the clash following some verbal sniping in the build-up and Queensland forward Sam Thaiday was in the middle of most of the pushing and shoving.
NSW began to find some momentum and in the 23rd minute late inclusion Tyson Frizell showed strength to force his way over through a Thurston tackle for his first Origin try and a 6-4 lead to the Blues, which they took into the break.
Queensland, as it has done in so many Origin clashes before, dug deep defensively as the Blues launched a series of attacks with a glut of possession from repeat sets and penalties.
The Blues had a one-man advantage when Maroons halfback Cooper Cronk was ordered to the sin bin for a professional foul in the 31st minute.
But the Blues, who forced several goalline re-starts could not crack Queensland, which managed to hold firm until the break.
The half-time stats were telling against NSW, which had 61 percent of possession (25 sets to 14) and a massive 9-1 edge in the penalties.
When Smith argued with referee Gerard Sutton about the lopsided count, the man with the whistle lost patience and said: "Cameron, you're not the referee."
The Blues came out early in the second half with a Fifita try off a Maloney bomb after Wade Graham kicked a loose ball over the line.
Maloney's conversion gave NSW a very handy 12-4 lead after 45 minutes.
Things appeared to get worse for Queensland when Inglis was penalised for a shoulder charge on Dugan, who was forced off the field, before debutant Gavin Cooper muscled his way over for a try.
Cooper gave young Moylan a spray as he got off the ground and as players scuffled towards the sideline Fifita ran 30m and grabbed Cooper around the neck before being sent to the sin bin.