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After years of Origin heartbreak, New South Wales last night tackled their way to a rare rugby league series success.
The Blues won game two in Sydney to clinch just their second series in 13 years with an inexperienced side coached by Brad Fittler — 11 made their Origin debuts in a 22-12 win in game one.
Queensland dominated early on to lead 10-0 after the opening quarter but NSW fought back to be ahead 12-10 at the break, aided by just the second penalty try in Origin history.
They withstood plenty of Maroons pressure in the second half and played 10 of the final 12 minutes a man down after James Roberts was sinbinned but defended stoutly to clinch the victory.
Maloney, at the centre of the first two NSW tries that turned the match, was celebrating his first series success.
"I've been here a few times and felt the hurt, so it makes this special, I'll remember this one," said Maloney.
Asked about playing the end of the game a man down, Maloney said: "We said before we came out it was never going to go to plan and we were going to have to face adversity at some point. This is special and hopefully it's the start of something."
Blues fullback James Tedesco was also rapt: "That was outstanding. That last second half, we lost a man but we kept defending our line."
Queensland skipper Greg Inglis rued his side's missed opportunities.
"It was there for the taking, we just didn't do the small things," said Inglis. "It's about grinding it out for 80 minutes."
Queensland started strongly, with Valentine Holmes crossing in the 12th minute and fellow wing Dane Gagai scoring in the other corner after 19. But just as Queensland looked like taking control of the game, NSW scored from their first real attack of the match in the 24th minute.
Maloney fired a last-tackle cutout pass past two teammates to Josh Addo-Carr on the sideline, who showed nifty footwork to jink inside two opponents and score in the tackle of a third. The pass was ambitious from the former Warrior, who threw a costly intercept in Origin I.
Minutes later, NSW turned down an easy two points from a penalty near the posts and the decision paid off.
Maloney stabbed in a grubber kick which sat up nicely in goal but Boyd Cordner was prevented from scoring when Ben Hunt blocked his path. The video referee awarded a penalty try in a decision most neutrals wouldn't have disputed. The penalty try was just the second in Origin history — the first was awarded in 1981.
Maloney converted and in the space of seven minutes, the Blues had turned the match to lead 12-10. Suddenly not much seemed to be going Queensland's way. Passes were dropped and kicks were inaccurate as the Sydney crowd of 82,223 upped the decibel level.
NSW carried their momentum into the second half when centre Latrell Mitchell powered over close to the line four minutes after the restart. Maloney's sideline conversion gave the Blues a handy 18-10 lead.
Queensland dominated territory and possession through the rest of the third quarter but the Blues held them out until the 62nd minute, when centre Will Chambers had a short run to the right-hand corner.
The Maroons turned up the heat, with debutant Kalyn Ponga making the best break of the game but getting dragged down metres from the tryline. But a couple of tackles later, James Roberts was sinbinned for holding back a kick chaser, leaving NSW to play most of the last 12 minutes a man down.
That decision looked like paving the way for a late Queensland win but the visitors didn't come close to scoring through a combination of poor option-taking and stoic NSW defence.
NSW will attempt to complete an Origin sweep in game three in Brisbane on Wednesday, July 11.
New South Wales 18 (Josh Addo-Carr, Latrell Mitchell tries, penalty try; James Maloney 3 cons).
Queensland 14 (Valentine Holmes, Dane Gagai, Will Chambers tries; Holmes con).