Super Cooper Cronk ensured the Queensland Maroons sent warhorse forward Petero Civoniceva out a winner when they extended their State of Origin success sequence to seven straight series victories in Brisbane late last night.
But Mal Meninga’s Maroons needed a long-range field goal by Cronk to secure an enthralling 21-20 victory over New South Wales to celebrate a 2-1 series win before 52,000 partisan fans at Suncorp Stadium.
It was the send-off Queensland sought for Broncos prop Civoniceva, 36, playing his 33rd and final Origin game, in his final first-grade season. Civoniceva said it was ”an unbelievable” way to bring down the curtain. ”I’m just so happy for Queensland, the boys dug deep.”
New South Wales started promisingly, recording the first try to winger Brett Morris but then Maroons playmaker Jonathan Thurston stepped up. The North Queensland Cowboys star shone with his speed off the mark, eye for a gap and super cut-out passes.
Queensland were without injured star fullback Billy Slater but in Cronk, Thurston and captain Cameron Smith, they had plenty of playmaking options and ample experience in Civoniceva, former Warrior Brent Tate and second rower Sam Thaiday to close out a thrilling series.
Two late tries by Thurston and centre Justin Hodges gave Queensland a 16-8 lead after an explosive first half. The opening 40 minutes was littered with flare ups, the first just two minutes into the clash.
Blues hooker Robbie Farah showed great courage to stay on the field after being knocked senseless just before winger Brett Morris put NSW ahead 8-0 with a converted try in the 13th minute. Five-eighth Todd Carney had kicked a penalty goal five minutes earlier.
Queensland struck back in the left corner through winger Darius Boyd who scored his third try of the series and hit the lead in the 32nd minute after Thurston handled three times and converted his own try to lead 10-8.
Worse was to come for the Blues with centre Justin Hodges crossing untouched in a controversial try three minutes later.
Farah threw his arms in the air appealing for obstruction before video referee Steve Clark flashed up the green light.
Thurston’s conversion made it 16-8 at the break.
But Manly fullback Brett Stewart pulled the Blues back from the brink with his fifth Origin try in his eighth game after slick work by hooker Robbie Farah. Carney’s conversion cut Queensland’s lead to 16-14, making the next score vital.
NSW were penalised in front of their posts, allowing Thurston to extend the advantage to four points. He slotted another after a swinging arm by NSW forward Tony Williams struck Cronk.
But Josh Morris joined brother Brett on the scoresheet, leaping high over Boyd to catch a clever cross kick from Carney and dot down in the corner. Carney kept his cool to slot a superb sideline conversion to tie the score at 20-20.
However Cronk plonked over the game-breaking field goal five minutes from fulltime to extend the Maroons dominance to a seventh straight year and ensure yet another heartbreak finish for NSW. – With AAP