CRUSHING BLOW: Maroons' Origin dynasty begins again
COP that NSW. A new Queensland dynasty is born.
Kevin Walters' Maroons produced one of the finest fightbacks as an old dog and two young pups inspired Queensland's epic series-clinching 22-6 defeat of NSW in the Origin decider.
Before a ground-record 52,540 at Suncorp Stadium, the Maroons overcame the loss of Origin II casualties Johnathan Thurston and Darius Boyd as they found fresh heroes to break the Blues.
Magnificent Cameron Smith produced a skipper's knock in his 42nd Origin game, providing the inspiration for debutant Cameron Munster and hat-trick hero Valentine Holmes to torment the Blues.
Queensland's record-breaking dynasty was on the verge of collapse after they suffered a humiliating 28-4 defeat in Origin I.
But returning to the scene of that rout, the Maroons were never headed, bolting to a 12-0 half-time lead before Holmes and Munster floored NSW with a one-two punch to clinch an 11th series win in 12 years.
Amid the euphoria, Smith clinched man-of-the-match honours, Dane Gagai snared the Wally Lewis Medal as player of the series ... and coach Walters savoured his second consecutive series win.
Paul Vautin's 'Neville Nobodies' which won the 1995 series 3-0 are widely regarded as Queensland's bravest outfit. But Walters' Wonders are now in the same league after his blooding of eight new faces this year was emphatically vindicated by a rampant Game Three performance.
Munster was magnificent filling in for Thurston at five-eighth, while Holmes was electric, scoring a first-half double before his treble in the 60th minute speared the Blues.
The emotion was capped by the sight of the injured Thurston rushing onto the field at full-time to embrace his Maroons comrades after Smith ran across field to find him.
The Blues dictated terms in the series opener at Suncorp but on this occasion, it was Queensland who set the early pace.
The Maroons were sharp around the rucks, powerful in the middle-third and dynamic on the edges.
In Game One, NSW had a trump card in Andrew Fifita. Last night, Queensland countered with Origin's greatest servant _ Cameron Smith.
By his own admission, the Maroons skipper was ineffective in the opening two games, making just two runs for seven metres. In Origin, ruck control is everything and this was Smith's stage to right some wrongs.
Playing at the very venue in which he made his Maroons debut 14 years ago, Smith didn't so much raise the bar as summon 42 games of Origin know-how to impose his tactical will on the beleaguered Blues.
Wherever you looked, Smith was Queensland's pied piper. He had touches at first receiver. He fed the backline at second receiver. Mainly, he sliced and diced from hooker, deconstructing the Blues with the poise and precision of a neurosurgeon.
Smith's sublime display crystallised the gulf between these fierce foes. Talent is not necessarily the issue. Self-belief is. In clutch moments, the Maroons have champions like Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater who stand up and execute under pressure.
Queensland had one hand on the trophy at half-time. But the beauty of Origin is the small, almost imperceptible twists and turns in the narrative. Half-time saved NSW ... and after the break, the rallied to give the Maroons an almighty fright.
For 20 minutes, Queensland were under siege. The ray of hope for NSW came in the 48th minute, when Josh Dugan successfully soared high for a bomb to whittle the deficit to 12-6.
But on the hour, coach Walters' selection courage was borne out in his matchwinners as rookies Munster and Holmes combined to deliver the coup de grace.
The Blues are entitled to question if their time will ever come. With a new wave of Maroons, Walters is building another great Queensland dynasty.
QUEENSLAND 22 (V Holmes 3 J Wallace tries C Smith 3 goals) bt NEW SOUTH WALES 6 (J Dugan try J Maloney goal) at Suncorp Stadium. Referee: Matt Cecchin, Gerard Sutton. Crowd: 52,540.