Queensland edge Origin decider
Queensland 21 New South Wales 20:Queensland won a thrilling deciding Origin clash at Suncorp Stadium to clinch a historic seventh consecutive series triumph and provide popular forward Petero Civoniceva with a fitting farewell.
The Maroons bounced back from their 16-12 defeat in Sydney to maintain their stranglehold on the contest in the 36-year-old Civoniceva’s 33rd and last Origin appearance, but it was a close-run thing.
Scrumhalf Cooper Cronk was Queensland’s hero with a 40-metre drop goal four minutes from the end after New South Wales had fought back brilliantly to tie the scores.
Blues captain Paul Gallen was reduced to tears at the end while the outcome was also tough on try-scoring twins Brett and Josh Morris and hooker Robbie Farah, who overcame the recent death of his mother to create two of his side’s three tries with inch-perfect kicks. But New South Wales always had trouble coping with the creative flair of stand-off Johnathan Thurston and the counter-attacking threat of full-back Greg Inglis, who proved an outstanding deputy for the injured Billy Slater.
The tense finish summed up a game that was packed with drama from the first minute. A flare-up inside the first 90 seconds set the tone and tempers simmered throughout.
Brett Morris demonstrated his threat with an early break, and after Todd Carney had given the Blues an early lead with a penalty awarded for offside, he forced his way over from dummy half for the game’s first try.
Trailing 8-0, the Maroons struck back midway through the first half when winger Darius Boyd took Thurston’s cut-out pass to score his ninth Origin try, and they ought to have scored again when Blues defender Anthony Watmough got back to intercept Justin Hodges’ pass just short of the line.
The Queenslanders eventually drew level when Thurston broke clear from his own 30-metre line and, on the next play, went over for a try after collecting one of a series of defence-splitting offloads from Corey Parker.
Thurston’s goal put his side into a 10-8 lead and took him past Michael O’Connor’s total of 129 points for Queensland, putting him second only to Mal Meninga, the Maroons coach, in the all-time list.
It was 16-8 six minutes before half-time when Hodges went over for a third try from an arcing run despite a hint of obstruction, but the contest was wide open early in the second half when full-back Brett Stewart won the race to Farah’s kick.
Carney’s goal cut the gap to just two points but Thurston kicked two penalties to keep his side in front, and the Blues remained in the hunt when Josh Morris got back to deny Inglis what looked to be a certain try following a superb break from skipper Cameron Smith.
The visitors then struck 10 minutes from the end when Josh Morris outjumped Boyd to collect Farah’s pinpoint kick and score his side’s third try, with Carney’s touchline conversion levelling the scores.
Four minutes later Cronk put over the all-important drop goal but there was almost a final twist when Mitchell Pearce was wide with a similar attempt for the Blues in the last minute.