Origin 3 NSW v Qld
Origin 3 NSW v Qld

Crash: Maroons pride can never be questioned

Sometimes spirit is not enough … even when you are a magnificently motivated Queensland team snatching at State of Origin glory.

You can hustle, bustle, conjure and scrap with eye-popping intensity - as the Maroons did - but class will rise and leave you with a broken heart.

It was there. Then it was gone. It hurts.

Queensland has lost a State of Origin series but can feel proud of its team of heartbreak kids written off as the Motley Maroons who lifted not once but three times when they looked beaten.

After losing seven consecutive Origin deciders, the Blues have finally cracked the curse.

The monkey is gone off their shoulders and the gorilla - make that King Kong - also left the back of previously tortured halfback Mitchell Pearce, who has won his first State of Origin series in his 19th match.

 

Felise Kaufusi celebrates scoring the opening try of Origin III. Picture: Adam Head
Felise Kaufusi celebrates scoring the opening try of Origin III. Picture: Adam Head

 

Queensland on paper had no right to get close but they did in going down 26-20 at ANZ Stadium.

It was an instant classic featuring two late Queensland tries when all seemed lost.

It is the second series loss in a row for Queensland after James Tedesco scored with 20 seconds to play.

The loss could be the farewell appearance of Queensland coach Kevin Walters if he applies for the Gold Coast Titans job, which is expected to be up for grabs soon.

Walters is 2-2 in his Origin coaching career and, if he leaves, it will be with dignity.

In some ways Queensland and NSW have morphed into each other.

Only a few years ago it was Queensland that was the team with the champions and the final say, the miracle comebacks, the kings of conjure, the men with the dancing feet.

 

Cameron Munster was majestic at fullback. Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Cameron Munster was majestic at fullback. Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

 

But NSW, with fullback James Tedesco and sniping hooker Damien Cook, now have that vibe - not that there is much between the sides.

Queensland put in an old-fashioned Queensland performance, relying on relentless heart and an unbreakable spirit.

It was obvious from the opening whistle that Queensland's sleepy starts in the first two games would be replaced by a kamikaze period as intense as any Maroon start of recent times.

It was as if the title was up for grabs in the first five minutes as the Maroons dripped with energy and enterprise, proving again the old theory that just when you think Queensland are little chance in a game, they suddenly become a big chance.

Written off and spurned as outclassed after being thrashed in Perth, they played like the Queensland teams of old, with bottomless heart and commitment that at times puts the team's cause ahead of personal safety.

 

Ethan Lowe had debut that he could be proud of. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images
Ethan Lowe had debut that he could be proud of. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images

 

New recruit Ethan Lowe, in a memorable and nerveless debut, ploughed up field like a four-wheel drive in first gear.

Once he was tackled, Josh Papalii was dangerous with the ball and even more dangerous without it and the extra space gave Ben Hunt and Cameron Munster room to roam and conjure.

Munster, who had been craving for years to play at fullback, finally got his moment and excelled, dancing into space when most others were hitting brick walls.

It was a brutal game, which at times was like a game of human pinball.

 

Michael Morgan was knocked out by an accidental Josh McGuire elbow. Picture: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
Michael Morgan was knocked out by an accidental Josh McGuire elbow. Picture: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

 

Michael Morgan was knocked senseless after he ran into the elbow of teammate Josh McGuire, all part of the general mayhem and desperate defensive scramble.

But NSW's extra class was always a worry.

They got dominated for most of the first half, yet when James Tedesco floated around a defensive line for a break only he could have conjured, the Blues fed off a couple of cheap penalties to jump the Maroons for their only first-half try.

Pearce's redemption was one of the stories of the match.

His tortured interstate career had previously represented 18 matches without a series win, a record that cut deep into his soul.

 

Normal Origin transmission has resumed which means the Blues will win every now and again. Picture: AAP Image/Dean Lewins
Normal Origin transmission has resumed which means the Blues will win every now and again. Picture: AAP Image/Dean Lewins

 

While publicly pragmatic about his fortunes, Pearce would occasionally pour his heart out to teammates in private about his lament at being the face of NSW's interstate failure.

Queensland's loss represents their second series defeat in a row and the turning of the interstate tide. The Maroons are down but they have not tumbled into an abyss.

Despite losing two in a row, they have won a match both years. They have triumphed in three of the past five and 11 of the past 14 series.

But you cannot hide the truth.

The glory days which featured eight straight series wins are gone, probably forever.

Normal Origin transmission has resumed, where one series win is a mighty effort, two a triumph and anything beyond that an epic achievement. Bring on next year!