Maroons' win the stuff of legends
CHAMPION. Legend. Immortal.
Maroons captain Cameron Smith produced a State of Origin masterclass to add another chapter to the story of his illustrious career and guide Queensland to a third straight series victory on Wednesday night.
The 22-6 win was not a tactical ambush from the Maroons clipboard holders and game-plan writers. It was Smith at his scheming best in a record 42nd Origin appearance.
At 34 and with nearly 450 first-grade games under his belt, Smith's legs are not what they used to be but he sensed the occasion was big and stepped up to the plate.
Queensland's seemingly ageless leader produced just two runs in the opening two games of the series and was critical of his performances.
The Blues should have known he was ready to produce something special. Champions always do when the chips are down.
Game of Thrones star Jason Momoa, better known as Khal Drogo, was in the stands watching on as Smith pressed his claims to be the new King of Suncorp Stadium.
At half-time Smith had produced five runs (41m) and was toying with Blues defenders with every touch. He would later be crowned man of the match.
Smith took charge early to get Queensland moving. He ran from dummy-half, played the link man at lock and eased Cameron Munster into his five-eighth debut, later allowing the No.6 to explode.
While Smith played the conductor it was Billy Slater's speed that rattled the Blues. He gave Michael Morgan a sniff and the big-play specialist put Valentine Holmes over.
Smith and Slater then combined to slice the Blues through the middle, only a desperate dive by Brett Morris stopping Cooper Cronk from finishing off the exquisite movement by the "Big Three".
It looked like Smith was in slow motion when he cut through the Blues again but NSW could do little to stop him and on the next play Cronk produced a bullet-like kick for Holmes to bag his second.
The Maroons looked robotic at times, much like the superbly choreographed Melbourne Storm, which provided their four key playmakers.
On the other hand Blues captain Boyd Cordner was NSW's Achilles heel. Cordner spent most of the preparation nursing a calf injury and was terribly out of sync with his teammates.
In game one six weeks ago, NSW's forwards bulldozed Queensland and Andrew Fifita was man of the match. Last night he had just 10 runs for 66m.
Queensland won the physical contests for 75 minutes. The only time momentum swung was when the Blues fired up early in the second half and briefly brought the score back to 12-6.
The Blues used the same 17 players in every game and held a 1-1 series lead while Queensland blooded eight debutants. Johnathan Thurston sat in the coaches' box. Darius Boyd, Greg Inglis and Matt Scott were also injured.
Everything pointed to a NSW victory but it was Queensland that delivered and it had a lot to do with their mercurial captain.