New South Wales have claimed just their second State of Origin series victory in 13 years with an 18-14 win over Queensland in game two on Sunday in Sydney.
Four long years after the Blues sealed their last series win, NSW overcame the second half sin-binning of centre James Roberts to toast success again in front of 82,223 fans.
It was a nightmare start for life without the Maroons’ Big Three – retired greats Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston.
However it was the stuff of dreams for long suffering Blues fans at a sold out ANZ Stadium.
Yet only something extraordinary it seemed would break the Maroons’ Origin hold after claiming the series a staggering 11 times in the past 12 years.
And the Blues inadvertently provided it with a rare penalty try to skipper Boyd Cordner in the 31st minute.
NSW were gifted four points when halfback Ben Hunt took out Cordner as the try-bound back-rower chased a James Maloney grubber.
Remarkably, it marked the first Origin penalty try in 37 years.
“It was a brave call but he was going to score,” said NSW coach Brad Fittler, who arrived at the press conference sipping a well earned beer.
Queensland coach Kevin Walters bit his tongue.
“I don’t want that to be what this is about. We didn’t get it right when it mattered most – it was not about a refereeing decision,” he said.
NSW still did it the hard way, overcoming Roberts’ 69th minute binning for obstructing Gavin Cooper as he tried to reel in a Ben Hunt kick to score.
“We were going to have to face adversity at some point – it was how we reacted to that,” said NSW half Maloney.
“It’s a special moment and hopefully it’s the start of something.”
Queensland threatened to break NSW hearts yet again when returning hero Billy Slater celebrated his landmark 30th Origin by helping the visitors race to a 10-0 lead after just 20 minutes.
Instead of Independence Day for the Blues it loomed as Groundhog Day.
However, the Blues rallied to ensure Fittler became just the sixth NSW coach to claim the Origin title in his first series.
NSW backed up their 22-12 game one win with victory in the first Sunday night Origin game in 17 years.
Sadly, Cordner may not remember the famous victory – he was helped off the field in the 75th minute with concussion.
“It hurts but we have to learn from it. It’s a new generation of Maroons coming through now,” Queensland captain Greg Inglis said.
NSW held a 12-10 halftime lead after the early Queensland onslaught when wingers Valentine Holmes (13th minute) and Dane Gagai (20th) crossed.
The dead rubber is in Brisbane on July 11.