Queensland deny Blues sweep to send Slater out a winner

NICE: Valentine Holmes crosses for the Maroons. Picture: AAP
NICE: Valentine Holmes crosses for the Maroons. Picture: AAP

THEY came to watch Cameron Smith wave a long goodbye but, to the delight  of the 50,000 Queenslanders that turned up to Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night, a game of footy broke out.

Proving again that there's no such thing as a dead rubber, at least for the team 2-0 down, the Maroons restored pride with a 18-12 win. 

NSW were looking for the knockout-blow but, in the end, they were forced to settle for a decision win - and a heavily anticipated rematch next season.

Stand-in Maroons skipper Billy Slater won't be there but, like Smith, and Darren Lockyer, Cooper Cronk and Jonathan Thurston before him, he left the Origin arena a winner... sort of. Not that the Maroons faithful needed any convincing. 

A lot of them stayed around to boo NSW skipper Boyd Cordner as he collected the shield and no doubt walked away calling the Blues 2-1 series win a fluke.

It's wasn't of course, especially given the character Blues managed to lead 12-8 at halftime despite having just 34 per cent of the ball and losing James Maloney to the sin-bin just prior to the break.

Slater had what looked to be a fourth-minute try denied by the bunker but Valentine Holmes took the lead six minutes later, snatching a pass from James Tedesco and dashing 90 metres for the first four-pointer.

It was a miracle they didn't concede more points in the ensuing 20 minutes before Slater went close again. He couldn't get to a Cameron Munster grubber but  Maloney earned 10 minutes in the sin-bin for running him off the ball.

Holmes slotted a penalty goal for an 8-0 lead. It was short-lived with Tom Trbojevic grabbing an intercept almost identical to Holmes’ to go the same 90 metres.

Nathan Cleary nailed the conversion to cut the margin to two 90 seconds before halftime and the Blues, incredibly, led at the break when Tedesco crossed next to the posts off a short-ball from Damien Cook.

Holmes leveled up with his second 11 minutes after the resumption but his attempted conversion was waved away. The hosts backed it up with a try to Daly Cherry-Evans under the posts for a six-point lead. It proved enough.