Maroons find Origin fight to avoid sweep

Matt Encarnacion

Johnathan Thurston said they'd be despondent.

Entering the sheds at halftime, Queensland had 68 per cent possession to 32.

Forced NSW into 194 tackles to their 120. Enjoyed a 5-1 advantage in the penalty count. And 29 plays inside the opposition 20m zone to just three.

They even had numbers on the side approaching halftime with NSW five-eighth James Maloney put in the sin bin for a professional foul.

The Maroons were up everywhere but on the scoreboard.

But in the 37 years of State of Origin history, there's only been seven clean sweeps.

And Queensland showed why by overcoming the dejection of giving up a two-point halftime lead at Suncorp Stadium despite one of the most dominant first halves in recent series.

Thurston described it as one of the best defensive efforts he'd ever seen.

"They'd be dejected going into the sheds," Thurston said at halftime.

"But with having so much possession, it takes so much gas out of you."

And despite all the Blues' courage - at one point they defended six straight sets on their line - they were on empty for most of the second half on Wednesday night.

There were some tired errors - James Maloney finished with five for the night.

And some bone-headed penalties, such as Tariq Sims' decision to tackle St George Illawarra teammate Ben Hunt after playing the ball.

"Tariq's lost his head and put on a pumpkin," Maroons great Paul Vautin said.

"And it might cost them."

Indeed, spurred on by the crowd of 51,214, the Maroons made them pay.

It began with retiring legend Billy Slater, standing in as captain, who set up Valentine Holmes' second try of the night with his trademark speed.

And it finished with Daly Cherry-Evans who, after three years in the wilderness, finished off a Cameron Munster line break to claim the match-winning try.