The Queensland Maroons reclaimed the State of Origin shield with a record-breaking 52-6 victory over New South Wales at Suncorp Stadium last night.
Mal Meninga celebrated his 55th birthday in style, watching his side become the first to pass 50 points in Origin history since New South Wales won 56-16 in 2000.
Queensland blew the NSW side off the park and left the players, coach and fans alike, stunned.
“I’m shocked that it ended up like that,” said NSW coach Laurie Daley post match. “I just didn’t see it coming.”
With a whopping 70 per cent possession, eight tries and Jonathan Thurston nailing a perfect nine from nine conversions, Queensland were unstoppable in front of a rabid crowd.
The Blues were noticeably and understandably, deflated after the match, captain Paul Gallen was particularly frustrated with the final result saying that his side is better than that.
“It’s not good enough as simple as that. Just not good enough for the Blue jumper,” said Gallen.
“That’s just nowhere near what we are capable of doing,” he said.
The momentum was built early by the home side and the Blues were simply unable to handle the unrelenting play of the Queenslanders.
Debutant Dane Gagai scored the opening try of the match for the Maroons in a game he is unlikely to forget. However, nobody could have predicted the flood gates to open up like they did.
Stand-out performances from fullback Greg Inglis and forwards Jacob Lillyman and Corey Parker (Parker claimed the Wally Lewis Man of the Series medal), led the way, both racking up over 100 meters.
However it was the influence of Cooper Cronk that appeared to have the biggest impact on the match. Absent from their game two loss due to injury, Cronk returned to the Origin arena as only he could, cool, calm and collected, directing his forwards around the park, kicking for territory and laying on tries for his outside men. It was an utter master class from the number seven who again combined beautifully with his halves partner Jonathan Thurston.
The Maroons scored six tries before the Blues could reply through a Michael Jennings break midway through the second half, but it was a slight hiccup and Queensland kept the pressure up and cruised to victory.
When Aiden Guerra crashed over in the 77th minute, it gave the Queenslanders the chance to not only send off one of their longest serving players Justin Hodges in fairy tale style, but also one last chance to rub salt into the wound. Hodges lined up and slotted the final conversion, the cherry on top of what was a historic, ruthless performance by the locals in front of their fans.
For the Blues unfortunately, it means nine series losses in the past 10 years.
“We have taken some big steps forward in recent years. That was a few steps back tonight,” said Daley.
“Like I said I just didn’t see that coming.” – Jackson Thomas
Top photo from Michael Sheils’ Flickr photostream