DID anyone seriously expect anything else?
All-conquering Queensland stretched their State of Origin dominance to an unprecedented fifth straight year with a 34-6 rout of the basket-case Blues at Suncorp Stadium last night and will start odds-on favourites to make it a clean sweep in Sydney on July 7.
NSW were in disarray from the time they named a 21-man squad nine nights earlier.
They made Origin history by selecting captain Kurt Gidley on the bench and endured one drama after another during training camp.
Their preparation reached crisis point last Friday when Timana Tahu walked out and assistant coach Andrew Johns quit a day later in the wake of a racism controversy that is still causing aftershocks.
In what was almost certainly Queensland captain Darren Lockyer's final Origin appearance at Suncorp, the Maroons were poised to surpass their previous biggest 30-point winning margin with a ruthless shut-out.
But NSW prop Brett White spoiled the party with a consolation try in the 78th minute.
Until then, Queensland's record winning margins of 36-6 (1989 and 2003) and 30-0 (2008) were under threat.
Queensland scored three tries to lead 16-0 after a fiery first half, in which NSW forwards Paul Gallen and Luke O'Donnell were reported for a high tackle and a dangerous tackle respectively.
After bumbling through the preparation from hell, the Blues found themselves in a whole new world of hurt, trailing 10-0 after 12 minutes.
There was more than a hint of poetic justice in the fact that Greg Inglis and Israel Folau, two of the Maroons players apparently targeted by Johns's infamous racial taunts at a NSW bonding session exactly one week earlier, scored Queensland's first two tries.
Inglis touched down in the third minute after halfback Johnathan Thurston darted and jinked through the disjointed NSW defensive line and linked with the giant centre on Queensland's left flank.
From a scrum win deep in NSW territory nine minutes later, Thurston and Lockyer shifted the ball to the right and centre Willie Tonga lobbed a suspect pass for Folau to score.
Queensland hooker Cameron Smith kicked out on the full twice in the space of four minutes midway through the first half, handing the Blues some quality field position from which to launch their counter-attack but they could not find a way through the Maroons.
Frustrated by their inability to crack the line, the Blues went to the air through halves Mitchell Pearce and Trent Barrett but Queensland's back three of Billy Slater, Folau and Darius Boyd defused every kick directed at them.
Gallen, recalled to put some grunt back into the NSW pack, was reported for a high tackle on Nate Myles in the 23rd minute then O'Donnell joined him in the bad books for a spear tackle on Boyd three minutes later.
O'Donnell's dangerous tackle sparked an all-in brawl, during which he appeared to headbutt then punch Queensland bench forward David Taylor. The Maroons looked like extending their lead in the 31st minute but Slater's try was disallowed because the officials considered Lockyer's inside pass went forward.
But they only had to wait three minutes to stretch their advantage to 16-0.
NSW captain Kurt Gidley, who had replaced hooker Michael Ennis just two minutes earlier, could not clean up Thurston's chip kick.
From the ruck, the Maroons shifted the ball to their left and Inglis sent Boyd across for Queensland's third try.
The Blues had to wait until the 39th minute for their first penalty.
Any faint hope of a NSW comeback was snuffed out when Lockyer and Slater combined brilliantly for Tonga to score next to the posts just three minutes after play resumed.
Another NSW handling error coming out of their own half gave the Maroons another mid-field leg-up in the 48th minute and Lockyer dummied twice before feeding Folau with the pass for the AFL-bound winger's second try.
NSW coach Craig Bellamy said he hoped to continue in the role for the third game and again next season, but acknowledged that decision was not his to make.
Bellamy insisted the controversial departure of Tahu and Johns and the team's disjointed preparation had no bearing on the loss or the Blues' poor performance.
"Nobody wanted that to happen, what happened, and nobody wanted it to keep going like it kept going," Bellamy said.
"But at the end of the day, we were all aware of what our responsibility was, the staff and the players, and I thought we stuck really well to the task. I'd love to be able to use that as an excuse, but I don't think it is.
"Yeah, they're a good team but I said to the players at the end of the game, I know this sounds stupid, and perhaps I am stupid, I'm not quite sure, but I thought we played with a lot more spirit tonight than we did in the first one.
"We had a bit more energy, but we got beat by four in the first one and we got beat by 30 tonight . . . but we just gave them some soft tries and the try after half-time probably broke us."
In charge for their five straight series wins, Maroons mentor Mal Meninga described his record-breaking team as the greatest team in Origin history.
"It's been a tough week for rugby league in general and a lot of things have happened, but tomorrow should be about what a great team this is. It was a fantastic team effort right from the kick-off, and I couldn't have been more proud of the players."
Lockyer said he was pleased the Maroons kept their cool midway through the first half when NSW forwards Gallen and O'Donnell were reported for separate tackle offences and the game threatened to erupt.
"We were prepared for adversity and spoke about that before the kick-off . . . and in the end we responded well," Lockyer said.
Lockyer gave no indication if he would continue his representative career next season but said if last night's game was his last Origin appearance at Suncorp, it was an especially pleasing way to leave the stage.