Maroons seal whitewash over Blues
QUEENSLAND have capped an unprecedented era of State of Origin dominance, completing a series clean-sweep for the first time in their five-year reign with a tense 23-18 victory over NSW in game three on Wednesday night.
In the tightest match of the series so far, Queensland were forced to make a customary late comeback to seal the win and deliver the final nail in the coffin for a demoralised NSW team.
Queensland had been in control for most of the first half, taking a 13 - 6 lead into break and looking on track for their first clean sweep since 1995.
But the Blues had other ideas, with Kurt Gidley finding the line in the 46th minute after wrestling with three Maroons, and Michael Ennis pouncing on a brilliant short kick by Greg Bird on the Qld line to put NSW ahead by five points.
With just over 10 minutes left in the match and leading 18-13, NSW were looking like they may pull off an unlikely Origin win, and may well have if it weren't for a brilliant try-line tackle by fullback Billy Slater that prevented Anthony Wotmough from scoring a certain try.
A penalty against hooker Michael Ennis after a scuffle with Nate Myles gave the Maroons just the opportunity they needed to comeback, and it was Billy Slater who again proved to be the hero slicing through the Blues line to score with six minutes left, with Johnathan Thurston adding the extras to make it 19-18.
Willie Tonga iced the cake - which coach Mal Meninga could also use for his 50th birthday on Thursday - with a minute left on the clock as the Maroons won a series 3-0 for the first time since 1995.
Queensland captain Darren Lockyer couldn't have asked for more from what may be his last ever Origin.
"It's a great feeling. It wasn't looking great with 10 minutes to go but the boys deserve it. I'm really happy for them." he said.
"To (the Blues) credit, they played a lot of really good footy and we were struggling. But in the end we came back.
"I think they can hold their heads up high after tonight. They had a real dig. They'll take a lot of confidence out of that."
Despite the whitewash, outgoing NSW captain Trent Barrett was also positive in defeat.
"Disappointing at the end there. I thought we had them." Barrett said.
"We had our chances but I'm really proud of the way we fought. I think we've got a team and we need to stick with them. It's just a pity we couldn't win."
The Maroons were in control for most of the first half, with the fresh-faced Blues side struggling to get out of their own 50m zone under the weight of the Maroons rampaging forward line.
As Queensland continued to ply on the pressure, a try was only a matter of time, and came in the 20th minute when Darius Boyd exposed an under-manned left flank to score in the corner.
As they have done all series, Queensland was straight back on the attack, with second-rower Nate Myles breezing past the Blues line to score Queensland's second try.
At 12-nil down, NSW could have been forgiven for thinking they were suffering from deja vu. But errors from Queensland in their own half and a bustling charge from Paul Gallen saw the Blues get their first points on the board and a shot back at winning the match.
Perhaps the highlight of the match though came in the final moments of the first half when Queensland captain Darren Lockyer launched a monster drop-goal from 46 metres out, which easily sailed over the black dot to give the Maroons a valuable extra point.
FINAL SCORE: QLD 23 NSW 18
46th min: Kurt Gidley has finished off an epic play for NSW, diving over the line to score the first points after the break. Converted by Michael Gordon.
69th min: Michael Ennis has jumped on a brilliant short kick by Greg Bird to give NSW the lead. Converted by Michael Gordon.
74th min: Qld have taken the lead late in the game with Billy Slater breaking the line to score and Thurston converting to put the Maroons 1 point in front.
78th min: Willie Tonga has sealed the whitewash for Qld making the most of a simple overlap on the right side. Israel Folau takes the conversion duties and misses.
20th min: Darius Boyd has scored his sixth Origin try, diving in the corner for Qld's first points. Converted by Thurston.
28th min: Maroons second-rower Nate Myles has breezed past the Blues line to score Qld's second try. Converted by Thurston.
35th min: NSW have scored their first try, with Paul Gallan smashing his way through Qld's defence to score under the posts. Converted by Michael Gordon.
39th min: Darren Lockyer has launched a monster drop-goal from 46 metres out, adding 1 point to Qld's score.