Seventh heaven for Maroons

Normal, Sports

The National, Thursday July 5th, 2012

BRISBANE: All good things must come to an end – except it seems, Queensland’s dominance in rugby league’s State of Origin.
Try as they might, New South Wales just couldn’t deny Queensland sealing a remarkable seventh straight series with an absorbing 21-20 Origin III win at a delirious Suncorp Stadium last night in Brisbane.
It was a fitting farewell for veteran prop Petero Civoniceva, who ended his 33rd and final game in Queensland colours the way he had become accustomed – with a winning smile.
But another name must also have been on the Maroons faithful’s lips among the 52,437-strong crowd – Mal Meninga.
Statues of Wally Lewis, Darren Lockyer and – since Tuesday’s official unveiling – Arthur Beetson have pride of place outside Queensland’s home of rugby league, Suncorp Stadium.
Odds are Queensland coach Meninga is next to join them in bronze, immortalised for his continuing achievements.
His glittering 32-game Origin playing career was impressive enough.
But Meninga can now lay claim to grooming Queensland’s greatest team after experiencing seventh heaven.
Even NSW coach Ricky Stuart would find it hard to disagree now after the Maroons triumphed without Billy Slater (knee) and Darren Lockyer (retired).
Since being appointed NSW’s first full-time coach in November 2010, Stuart had been plotting Queensland’s downfall – even if good mate Meninga was at the Maroons helm.
Indeed, the Stuart-Meninga sub-plot had only added another dimension to the “mate against mate” Origin legend during a game-three build-up like no other.
Civoniceva’s Origin swansong, Slater’s withdrawal and, sadly, the passing of Queensland prop Matt Scott’s mother – the countdown had it all.
But it had nothing on the drama of the actual game.
Blues pivot Todd Carney set the stage when he coolly potted over a sideline conversion in the 70th minute to lock up the scores at 20-20 after trailing 14-8 at the break.
However, a 75th-minute Cooper Cronk field goal from 45m out ensured a game that loomed as NSW’s equivalent of Independence Day once again became Groundhog Day. – AAP