State of Origin 2013: Under hail of penalties, Queensland best with backs to the wall

Wayne Heming Columnist

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    Queensland fans rejoicing an eighth straight State of Origin series can thank messrs Shayne Hayne and Ben Cummins for the amazing defensive resolve that clinched the Maroons a nerve-wracking 12-10 deciding victory in hostile territory at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday night.

    There were many defining moments in the 80 minutes that these two great teams went toe-to-toe rather than the usual blow-for-blow of past crunch matches.

    The penalty blows that rained down on them taking the sting out of their excellent early start fired up Queensland more than the taunts of the rabid 83,000 Blue Army who constantly applied the blow torch to the two referees.

    If we’ve learned anything about Queensland and Origin since that first bloody night at Lang Park in 1980, it’s that they are at their very best when they have their backs to the wall and even moreso when they look down and out.

    As the penalty count mounted against them — I think it was 7-1 or 7-2 at one stage before ending up 8-4 — you could see their famed scrambling defensive resolve kicking in and getting stronger with each blow of the whistle.

    How many times did Queensland look out on their feet?

    And how many time did players find that indefinable something they so often talk about inside that deep Maroon jumper?

    That’s what Queensland teams do whether you believe all the talk of them being more passionate than the Blues or whatever.

    In the end, they clung on continue this amazing streak — but only just.

    Let’s not forget last year it took the best field goal in Origin history by halfback Cooper Cronk to secure series number 7 by a solitary point.

    Last night, the margin again was skinny, just two points and NSW took the battle field without arguably its two most influential stars, Jarryd Hayne and skipper Paul Gallen, forced to miss the biggest Origin game in years through injury.

    They may still not have won had one or both of them played.

    But any fair minded observer would have to concede they could have made the difference.

    There were plenty of times during the game that NSW were all over Queensland with their speed men.

    But they lacked the experience or the composure of many of their Queensland rivals who were able to draw on the intense experience of having won both the 2006 and 2008 deciders.

    Last night was Origin’s 17th series decider. Queensland has now won 11 times (two draws) which says something about their resolve when everything is on the line.

    Mitchell Pearce gave it everything, but again along with his Roosters teammate James Maloney, didn’t cut it against the world class Cooper Cronk-Johnathan Thurston combination.

    The one thing Queensland can’t stop though is their players getting older.

    Man-of-the-match Brent Tate, lock Corey Parker, centre Justin Hodges are all 31 while skipper Cameron Smith and chief player maker Johnathan Thurston are both 30.

    The task facing coach Mal Meninga – yet to lose an Origin series since taking over the job in 2006 and odds-on to continue in the role – is to have quality players ready to fill the voids when inevitably those champions call it quits.

    The Queensland Rugby League run emerging Origin camps under super coach Wayne Bennett and have programs around the state to identify talent which Meninga supervises.

    Meninga was blessed when champion Darren Lockyer pulled the pin in 2011. Storm star Cooper Cronk was ready to step into the halfback role after several games on the bench, freeing up Thurston to move into Lockyer’s key No.6 maroon jumper.

    It meant Queensland could make the transition to life after Lockyer with minimal distruption and continue their dominance.

    Queensland has two home games at Suncorp Stadium next year and have already been installed favourites by bookmakers to make it nine in a row, setting up a shot at a “decade of domination” in 2015.

    It wasn’t surprising after the game to see the predictable tweets and comments like “Origin is dead.”

    Try telling that to Blues’ coach Laurie Daley.

    You can bet he started plannining ways to deny Queensland nine in a row next year today.

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