The romantic gamble of bringing back Allan Langer got the storybook ending it deserved yesterday as the veteran scrum-half masterminded Queensland's 40-14 victory in the State of Origin decider in Brisbane.
The decision to recall the 34-year-old scrum-half from Warrington was widely mocked in Australia before the game; by the end, commentators were calling for him to play for Australia against New Zealand later this month. Langer gave a master class in half-back skills, setting up three tries in the first half as the Maroons recovered from a dreadful start.
But the moment the home crowd really wanted to savour came 13 minutes after the interval when the man they call Alfie dummied his way under Michael Vella's lunging tackle and plunged over the line for his 10th Origin try.
Wayne Bennett's imaginative ploy of sending for Langer had already been richly vindicated, but Queensland continued to pile on the punishment, running in more points against New South Wales than they had managed in Origin history.
And yet it all began disastrously, John Buttegieg losing the ball in the first tackle of the match and Ryan Girdler going over for New South Wales direct from the scrum.
Queensland came back with Chris Walker's first try, before Langer's short kicking game paid off with a try for Paul Bowman. NSW were briefly level through Girdler's second goal, but the rest of the half belonged strictly to Queensland. Langer's incisive run paved the way for Dane Carlaw, Walker followed Darren Lockyer's kick for his second and a lovely reverse pass from Langer created another try for Lockyer who also kicked four goals.
After Langer's rapturously acclaimed try, Bowman and Lockyer both went over for a second time to complete the Blues' humiliation.
Girdler continued to monopolise their points scoring with a try and a conversion, but it had been a miserable end to his Origin career for Brad Fittler, who had already announced that this would be his last series. Perhaps one day, like Langer, he might have his delayed moment of glory.