Queensland's super Cooper buries Blues in State of Origin classic
Down steps one Queensland match-winner, up steps another.
A spectacular 40-metre drop goal from the man who replaced the great Darren Lockyer ensured the Maroons dynasty lives on for a seventh year after an epic State of Origin decider in Brisbane.
New South Wales probably thought they’d get some respite from the Maroons’ last-gasp heroics when Lockyer, architect of so many of their great escapes, sailed off into the sunset last year. However, no one told Cronk, who with the momentum squarely behind the Blues after Todd Carney produced a miracle kick of his own to level the scores at 20-all late in the game, unleashed a superb strike to break the deadlock and send himself into Origin folklore.
“There’s a bit of a rule once you get in the last 10 minutes, you take the shot every chance you can - but probably not from that far out,” a relieved Cronk admitted at the end of a nail-biting 80 minutes. “We did a fair bit of practice of drop goals this week, because we knew how close Origin has been, and I’m glad it landed.”
Despite their unprecedented dominance, Mal Meninga’s side went into yesterday’s clash with plenty to prove after being pushed to the limit by a ferocious NSW outfit desperate for success. Injury to star fullback Billy Slater also added weight to the idea the Blues’ time had finally come. However, in front of a fired up home crowd, Queensland proved they’re no fading force, dominating much of the contest before Cronk silenced a late Blues revival.
And skipper Cameron Smith reckoned they also silenced a few critics in the process.
“Hopefully all those people who thought we were all played out and had nothing to show, we showed them one tonight that we still have some fuel in the tank and we’ve got the desire to win football matches,” he said.
NSW were outplayed for much of the contest but refused to let their bitter rivals pull away, and gave themselves a chance of a stunning upset when Josh Morris miraculously caught a cross-field bomb to score and Carney converted.
Having been on the receiving end for six straight series, they showed there’s now nothing between the two sides after a pulsating series.
But that isn’t good enough for NSW captain Paul Gallen, who said: “It doesn’t say pride on the trophy. It’s on again next year and we’ll be ready to go then.”