Consolation Origin win for Queensland
The rubber stamp NSW were looking for to signal the end of an era and the start of a new blue dynasty just wasn't forthcoming at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, last night.
There would be no blue wash or fairytale finish, with Queensland gatecrashing the NSW party on a bittersweet night for coach Laurie Daley's men.
The 32-8 loss left a sour taste in the mouths of the NSW players, who after eight years of agony finally lifted the State of Origin shield, only to have their bubble burst by a deflating defeat in the third and final match.
The NSW series win in Sydney in game two marked the end of one of rugby league's greatest stretches of dominance, but by no means was it the end of an era.
After what transpired on Wednesday night, it was clear the Blues would need to get even better next year if they were to make it two in a row.
Age shall not weary the Queenslanders.
Somehow, Queensland's Cooper Cronk, Johnathan Thurston, Billy Slater, Cameron Smith, Sam Thaiday and company just keep finding ways to sink daggers into the hearts of NSW, even when it seemed like nothing could possibly hurt them.
The Blues might not have celebrated the way they would have hoped, but there was nothing that ccould take away from the magnitude of what they had achieved this year.
Their incredible defensive effort in the first half was a sign of just how far this football team has come in 12 months, withstanding an attacking onslaught from the Maroons for 38 minutes until they finally cracked - and let the floodgates open.
It almost culminated in the greatest defensive performance in Origin history.
Coming into the game, the Blues had managed to keep Queensland tryless for 104 minutes, with Queensland's last four-pointer coming in the 56th minute of game one through Darius Boyd.
But when Daly Cherry-Evans burst through to put Cameron Smith over on the stroke of half-time, the great wall of NSW crumbled just nine minutes shy of breaking the record NSW set in 1990 when they kept the Maroons tryless for 150 minutes.
It was the first time since 2003 that Suncorp Stadium wasn't at full capacity for an Origin match, but the Blues were unable to rub salt into the wound with what could have been their first series sweep since 2000.
Blues skipper Paul Gallen was rewarded for years of toil, winning the Wally Lewis Medal for player of the series.
Just like the Blues did in game one, the Maroons kept the Blues waiting out on the field for a couple of minutes before making their way up the tunnel and on to Suncorp Stadium.
While they were slow out on to the field, there was nothing slow about Queensland's start with the ball in hand.
The Maroons dominated possession and had ample opportunities to register first points of the match, but some desperate scrambling defence from the Blues - in particular James McManus - denied both Inglis and Thurston over the line.
Queensland looked to have scored midway through the first half when Aidan Guerra dived on a loose ball, however the video referee intervened to rule Thurston in front of the kicker.
First points came off the boot of Hodkinson, who was hit high by Ben Te'o after putting up an attacking kick, giving NSW a 2-0 lead.
But it was the Maroons who went into the sheds with a 6-2 lead after a runaway Cherry-Evans grubbered through for his skipper to score on the stroke of half-time.
Queensland started the second half like they ended the first, with Billy Slater scoring off a flat pass from Justin Hodges to give the home side a 12-2 advantage.
A penalty against Greg Bird for a lifting tackle on Nate Myles, which was placed on report, gifted the Maroons an easy two points and a 14-2 lead with 20 minutes remaining.
Myles returned serve with a forearm to the throat of Bird from the ensuing kick-off, which led to a NSW penalty that allowed Josh Dugan to score and reduce the deficit to just six points with 18 minutes remaining.
But three successive tries to Boyd, Guerra and Cronk in the final 10 minutes ended any chance of a NSW comeback.
Queensland 32 (D Boyd C Cronk A Guerra B Slater C Smith tries J Thurston 6 goals) New South Wales 8 (J Dugan try T Hodkinson 2 goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Referee: Gerard Sutton, Ben Cummins. Crowd: 50,155.
Game 1: NSW 12 bt QLD 8
Game 2: NSW 6 bt QLD 4
Game 3: QLD 32 bt NSW 8
Series: NSW win series 2-1
Sydney Morning Herald