A fingernail – that’s how close NSW came to completing one of the most-courageous comebacks in State of Origin history in their pulsating 26-16 loss on Wednesday night to Queensland.
Down 20-16 in the 70th minute, Blues rookie Tyson Frizell almost kept the series alive when he grounded a James Maloney grubber, only for the bunker to detect a slight Michel Jennings knock-on in the lead-up.
No try, Queensland come down the other end and winger Corey Oates dives over in the corner.
Game over – series over.
“We missed a couple of opportunities tonight and they took there’s when they came and that was the difference,” Blues skipper Paul Gallen said.
This interstate rivalry is fast becoming the most-predictable game on the rugby league calendar.
Because for whatever game plan the Blues come up with, whether it’s a defensive wall or an unpredictable attack – as was the case on Wednesday night – nothing can overcome this champion Queensland team.
“It was a great night and a reflection of the team we have. We don’t let our mates down,” Maroons skipper Cameron Smith said.
As for Laurie Daley, viewed by most as a good bloke, the question is can he hang on to the Blues’ coaching job after slumping to his third series defeat in four attempts?
Only Melbourne mentor Craig Bellamy has survived back-to-back series defeats.
Even when his Blues came out with a new bag of tricks at Suncorp Stadium, even when he threw his last roll of the dice in utility Jack Bird, there was a sense of inevitability in the Queensland air.
Blues hooker Robbie Farah was given a licence to thrill in the opening minutes of the must-win encounter, causing the Maroons’ forwards all sorts of problems in the middle third to get the Blues on top.
“I don’t think I’ve seen Robbie Farah run as much in the first 15 minutes of this game than in another Origin game,” Nine Network commentator Peter Sterling boasted.
Game-one flop Dylan Walker started appearing on the opposite of the field, Adam Reynolds was kicking on tackle three and, after two early penalty goals, the Blues were on top.
But just like they did in game one, NSW failed to take their opportunities.
“When they look back at the video tape, one pass is all it takes,” commentator Phil Gould said.
The Maroons have made a living on owning the Origin moments, and Dane Gagai wrote his name into Origin folklore when he ran 80 metres with an injured quad to steal back the lead for good.
The result ensured Corey Parker had a winning farewell in his final Origin game at Suncorp Stadium, while Blues captain Gallen will bow out in Sydney with yet another series defeat.