The Maroons coach was in awe of the defensive determination shown by the Blues after they repelled constant Queensland attacking raids inside the final 20 minutes to snatch Game One in Origin's 100th match.
"The effort from both sides was fantastic. The desire from both sides was tremendous," Meninga said.
"We tried hard [but] we missed a few opportunities throughout the game to score points.
"That's what Origin is all about – it's about taking opportunities when they arise and we couldn't quite do that tonight."
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The Blues were able to overwhelm Queensland in the back-end of the first half and the Maroons didn't help themselves in the first 40 with a series of errors and penalties that gifted NSW easy metres through the middle.
The Maroons had a ready-made replacement at halfback in the form of Daly Cherry-Evans on the bench and despite the early setback, Meninga refused to blame Cronk's absence on the overall result.
"We're lucky we had Daly and [injury] does throw you off – it takes your bench to three and in this environment it makes it difficult for the players but they handled it really well," he said.
"We played out our 10 replacements because of that, but that's not an excuse. I still thought we did enough to win that game.
"NSW to their credit were defensively outstanding. Their scramble defence was fantastic and I thought their kick-chase was excellent too, which is a really good sign of their attitude. They came well prepared and ready to play."
Maroons' skipper Cameron Smith reiterated the words of his coach in regard to the loss of Cronk.
"It's always hard when you lose a player to injury – especially your halfback. As Mal said that's no excuse. We've got a pretty capable replacement in Daly and I thought he did a good job," Smith said.
"Unfortunately in that first half we didn’t have too many opportunities once Cooper went off. We were pretty much defending our own try-line the whole time.
"That's something we need to improve on for the next game. I agree with what Mal said – at the end we had opportunities to score and possibly win the game.
"NSW were very good on their try-line and kept turning us away and that's an area we need to be better at next game."
Cronk was headed to hospital on Wednesday night and is likely to be operated on during Thursday if X-rays show that his arm is indeed broken, which the Queensland medical staff suspect it is.