Queensland halfback Cooper Cronk was sorely missed after breaking his arm early in the State of Origin loss to NSW at Suncorp Stadium.
Queensland were left to rue the fracture to their famous spine as NSW claimed a much-needed State of Origin upset on Wednesday night.
And that break, through the early loss of halfback Cooper Cronk, has seen the chances of continuing their eight-year streak plummet.
Suffering a broken arm, Cronk was sorely missed in the gripping 12-8 loss at Suncorp Stadium and can’t return in time to help rescue the series.
The Melbourne No.7 isn’t the most dynamic Maroons star but he’s a vital link to the Queensland chain.
Wedged between Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater, Cronk has been the glue in the past and the value of his composure and organisation was more apparent when it wasn’t there.
Daly Cherry-Evans has been the form halfback of the NRL to loom as an able replacement but he wasn’t on the same page as his teammates – failing to pull off the clutch plays needed as the home side dominated the last half-hour.
Just as Mal Meninga ordered, the Maroons started like a house on fire.
They’d been burnt in the previous two series-openers by a subdued no-mistakes approach but turned up the intensity and dropped the shackles of conservatism.
An early break by Chris McQueen was followed by Darius Boyd’s fifth-minute try after rival winger Brett Morris slipped in defence.
But once Cronk was replaced in the 10th minute the whole momentum of the battle shifted.
The Maroons’ attack lost its groove and organisation and NSW took the ascendancy.
Not only did the Blues enjoy the weight of possession but they made the most of a big 10m by rumbling well down the field with each set.
It was only when Queensland got a welcome penalty near their line in the 50th minute that they got back into the contest.
Even with an array of lucky refereeing calls in the final 10 minutes when just four points down, the Maroons couldn’t crack the superb NSW defence.
Cherry-Evans wasn’t solely at fault, in fact halves partner Thurston was just as culpable after being haunted in defence by Jarryd Hayne.
Thurston also missed two sideline conversions that he normally slots on his favoured left side.
Neither did Thurston have his best game in attack, making uncharacteristic handling errors and his passes missing the mark under the Blues’ fast-rushing pressure.
Instead it was Hayne who had the biggest impact by far, donning a Blue cape to set up one try and score NSW’s other to ensure the pre-series underdogs will head to game two in Sydney in three weeks time as favourites.