Queensland’s veterans are in the box seat to have the last laugh on NSW’s “Dad’s Army” jokes after nabbing a dramatic 11-10 victory in the State of Origin opener at ANZ Stadium in Sydney.
Cooper Cronk broke Blues hearts on Wednesday night when he kicked a 74th minute field goal after Johnathan Thurston missed a 70th minute penalty.
NSW fullback Josh Dugan had a chance to lock up the scores but field goal effort in the 78th minute missed – to the horror of the Blues faithful in the 80,122-strong crowd.
Maroons coach Mal Meninga won’t be tempted to shelve his trusty loyalty card in game two in Melbourne on June 17 after his band of veterans again proved too good.
The Maroons boasted a side that had played over 160 more games, lining up against a beefed up NSW that looked to make up in sheer size what they lacked in experience.
Blues coach Laurie Daley finally discovered a winning formula when NSW finally snapped Queensland’s record eight straight series run last year – yet he still tinkered with it.
For the majority of the match his gamble appeared to come off.
His most contentious pick – Sydney Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce at pivot – complemented the ever reliable Trent Hodkinson.
Dugan did his best Jarryd Hayne impersonation at fullback for NSW.
And the Blues’ monster pack – including an all forwards bench – appeared to break Queensland down in the first half.
Desperate to show last year’s series win was no fluke, the Blues made a dream start to their title defence by grabbing a 10-6 halftime lead after centre Josh Morris capped a remarkable 60m try.
Queensland missed a chance to at least level the scores when an errant Greg Inglis pass went into touch rather than find a flying Darius Boyd in the 45th minute.
However, winger Will Chambers ran off Billy Slater to lock up the scores in the 55th minute before both sides traded field goal attempts.
Queensland captain Cameron Smith equalled Allan Langer (34 games) as the second most capped player in Origin history.
And Maroons pivot Johnathan Thurston played a record 31st consecutive Origin match.