A sloppy second half has condemned Queensland to its first consecutive series defeat since 2005, after NSW wrapped up the 2019 State of Origin series with a 26-20 win in the decider at ANZ Stadium.
In an Origin classic, Queensland called on all of its famous spirit to fight back from the dead and look ready to steal victory, only for the Blues to surge again to sneak home.
The Maroons looked sunk when NSW hooker Damien Cook scooted from dummy-half from 40m out to push the Blues out to a 20-8 lead with only 20 minutes to go.
But, typically, the Maroons would not say die.
A gritty, determined try to Josh McGuire in the 72nd minute reduced the margin to 20-14 – McGuire dragging three defenders with him across the line, and simultaneously dragging Queensland back into the contest.
With a shot of adrenaline in their system and the whiff of a trademark Queensland comeback in their nostrils, the Maroons found another gear and two pieces of brilliance from debutant Ethan Lowe turned the game on its head again.
Lowe was only included in the team the day before the game after the withdrawal of Matt Gillett with injury.
Yet somehow, after 77 minutes without a rest and heading towards a tally of 52 tackles in his Origin debut, Lowe found the energy to pressure the kick of Blues pivot James Maloney, forcing a charge-down and regathering to put the Maroons on the attack.
Four tackles later, the Maroons were in – with Josh Papalii deservedly touching down after a pass from Daly Cherry-Evans put him into a clear channel between Maloney and Boyd Cordner.
Lowe then delivered again – calmly drilling the challenging conversion between the posts to level the scores at 20-all with three minutes on the clock.
It was a hugely impressive display from Lowe, whose whole-hearted display showed that his first Queensland jersey will not be his last.
Unfortunately, there was to be no miracle finish for the Maroons, with the Blues conjuring some magic with 25 seconds left on the clock to escape with the win and the Origin shield.
The Maroons will look back at the series as one of missed opportunity, with an implosion in the second game in Perth and an undisciplined second half in Sydney seeing the Blues retain the shield.
The decider was there for Queensland’s taking after a wonderful first half that should have netted more reward than an 8-all scoreline at the break.
After failing to get out of the stalls in Perth, the Maroons put their best foot forward in Sydney, with new levels of energy and aggression in defence catching the Blues by surprise.
But NSW lifted after the break, at one stage looking like they would run away with the game, but ultimately being good enough to keep the resurgent Queenslanders at bay.
NSW 26 (James Tedesco 2, Paul Vaughan, Damien Cook tries; James Maloney 5 goals) d QLD 20 (Felise Kaufusi, Josh McGuire, Josh Papalii tries; Ethan Lowe 4 goals) at ANZ Stadium, Sydney