Cooper Cronk capped a stunning return with a late try in his side's 32-8 Origin III win. Credit: Brett Crockford. Copyright: NRL Photos.
It took a moment of brilliance from Maroons' utility interchange Daly Cherry-Evans to break open an almost impenetrable blue wall of NSW defence in Wednesday's third Origin match.
Having not crossed the line in 141 minutes of football, Queensland finally managed to crack the Blues' line in the 37th minute with a try to skipper Cameron Smith much to the relief of the 50,000 Queenslanders at Suncorp Stadium.
After receiving the ball from dummy-half, Cherry-Evans sliced his way through four NSW players on the halfway line, pinned his ears back for a 25-metre dash and then put boot-to-ball with a perfectly weighted grubber kick in the direction of Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk, who were surging through the middle in support.
However, Smith revealed after the game that the Maroons' opening try could have easily been bombed due to a lack of communication between himself and Melbourne Storm teammate Cronk.
"I was coming [towards the ball] at a bit of an angle and I don't think he had seen where I was coming from," Smith said.
"He didn’t say anything so I just yelled out 'it's mine'. I really didn’t think he knew I was there – you really need to make a call otherwise we could have ended up colliding when we went for the ball.
"Thankfully he pulled up the little fella and I bagged a four-pointer which is always nice."
"I was running that slow I had a full conversation with him – [we did] Scissors-Paper-Rock because I took so long to get to it."
Queensland soon extended their advantage after half-time when Billy Slater crossed to take the score out to 12-2 after a dominant first forty minutes.
The opening half of football saw the Maroons have 58 per cent of possession which facilitated a late flurry of points in the last eight minutes of the second stanza as Queensland piled on three quick tries to turn an eight-point lead into an eventual 24-point victory against a tired Blues outfit.
One man at the centre of Queensland's dominance was Cronk, who completed his first full match of the series after missing Game II and 70 minutes of Game I due to a broken arm.
The 30-year-old produced a masterclass performance on his return from injury by directing traffic and calling the shots for the Maroons in an extremely influential display which drew praise from Smith and Queensland Coach Mal Meninga.
"I thought his contribution tonight was excellent," Meninga said.
"I was very confident he was going to play 80 minutes. He eats the right food and drinks the right stuff – he's a true professional and he's important to our footy team.
"He offers structure for players like Cameron [Smith] and Johnathan [Thurston] and gives confidence to everyone around him so it was good to have him back.
"The continuity in [having] Cooper back training all this week was great. Obviously his combination with Billy [Slater] and Cameron was really important and invaluable to our footy team."
Smith was also full of praise for Cronk, who was originally ruled as having no chance of playing Origin III by club coach Craig Bellamy. The nippy halfback came through his 14th Origin match unscathed despite going down early on due to being winded in a tackle; he finished the game in fine style too, scoring Queensland's final try.
"I spoke about him during the week about how professional he is with his injuries and the way he goes about his preparation," Smith said.
"There were a lot of question marks flying around about his inclusion in this game but he was never in doubt of not playing.
"He trained every session with us and trained strongly so it was a nice little bonus for him to get a four-pointer."