Heartbreak as miracle Maroons comeback crushed
THIS was agony. Then it was ecstasy. Finally, it was bloody heartbreak.
Queensland crashed to their second consecutive series defeat in the most devastating fashion after NSW bogeyman James Tedesco produced a moment of magic to crush the Maroons 26-20 at ANZ Stadium.
In the greatest decider in Origin history, Tedesco touched down with 32 seconds remaining to steal victory just as the braveheart Maroons looked set to conjure another Queensland miracle.
The Maroons looked gone at 20-8 with eight minutes remaining before tries to Josh McGuire (72nd) and Josh Papalii (77th) sensationally catapulted Queensland back into the contest and set-up Origin's first-ever golden-point game.
But with the Blues under siege, NSW penned one final magical chapter, Blake Ferguson charging down the touchline before finding Tedesco, who crossed in the corner as 82,565 fans went berserk at Homebush.
It's official. NSW now owns State of Origin.
Queensland's glorious, decade-long dynasty is now a distant memory after two-try hero Tedesco danced all night to consign Kevin Walters' Maroons to back-to-back series defeats.
Not since 2005, when the Blues won three straight series, have NSW dominated the code's toughest arena and now the heat is on Queensland - and Walters - to find some answers for a recovery mission in 2020.
Walters' future as Queensland coach will come under the microscope after two wins and two losses from four campaigns, but if he does walk away before next year, he can be proud of his class of 2019.
In the quintessential Origin thriller, Walters watched his Maroons go from brilliant to bumbling as Queensland's hopes of reclaiming the shield were torched by Blues speed demons Tedesco and Damien Cook.
Queensland were heroic in the first half, producing a 100 per cent completion rate, but they imploded after the break as an 8-all half-time deadlock turned into a second-half under siege.
Superb solo tries to Tedesco (51st minute) and Cook (60th) minute shot NSW to a 20-8 lead, forcing Queensland to dig deep to keep the series alive.
Ultimately, they failed, but the Maroons found a number of heroes in defeat.
Fullback Cameron Munster was dangerous, prop Josh Papalii had the best game of his Origin career and back-rower Ethan Lowe was outstanding on debut, landing a pressure conversion to level scores at 20-all.
After Queensland's midfield mauling in Game Two, the Maroons' tactical methodology in the decider was always going to be brutally basic.
Play the percentages, muscle up in midfield and attack with defensive line speed.
Queensland's opening quarters in this series have been insipid. This time, they were energetic from the opening minutes.
In a first half marred by the referees _ they blew a staggering 12 penalties _ the Maroons were offensively flawless, completing a perfect 19 from 19 sets to keep the pressure on the Blues.
But NSW's bevy of game-breakers make them a threat from any distance. The evidence came six minutes before half-time, when fullback Tedesco raced 60 metres, laying the platform for Paul Vaughan to crash over and send the fierce foes to the sheds locked at 8-all.
Half-time saved NSW.
The second half became a Blues blitzkrieg. Queensland went from slick to sloppy. NSW got hungry and aggressive. Their intensity shifted two gears, sparking a one-two attacking punch in the space of nine minutes which left Queensland sprawling on the ropes.
But the Maroons are never six feet under. They punched until the very end, only to be stopped by that man Tedesco, who landed the most painful knockout blow.
NEW SOUTH WALES 26 (J Tedesco 2 D Cook P Vaughan tries J Maloney 5 goals) bt QUEENSLAND 20 (F Kaufusi J McGuire J Papalii tries E Lowe 4 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Referee: Gerard Sutton, Ashley Klein.