It´s that time of year again, the time that Australia goes doolally over the State of Origin and we get to tune in halfway across the globe to for a televisual feast as New South Wales take on Queensland at Sydney´s Accor Stadium at Olympic Park.
The Blues regained the honours last season with a two-one victory over the Maroons to whom they had lost the honour in 2020. Queensland are currently leading through the ages with twenty-two series wins against New South Wales sixteen as the teams started the forty-first full series in the forty-third year.
The Blues were slight favourites with the bookies, the Maroons getting a four-point start on the handicap coupon, but it really was anyone´s in what promised to be another close series.
Eighty thousand fans were crammed into the stadium as a nation waited with bated breath for the pre-match to subside and the gladiators to start their three-match battle.
It was a lightening fast opening with both sides spurning early half chances as they pushed to snatch an early lead.
On fourteen minutes Jack Wighton opened the scoring for the Blues as they moved the ball quickly through hands from the mid field to the left-hand side, the centre dipping the shoulder and riding the tackle to stretch out and score. Nathan Cleary hit the near post with his conversion attempt as it tailed off approaching the posts.
Patrick Carrigan was pushed back over the line when he looked certain to score for the Maroons on twenty-six and after conceding a penalty on their own line the Blues put in a fantastic effort in defence to regain possession.
Xavier Coates was helped from the field on twenty-eight after turning an ankle in a tackle as both sides were already carrying players with injuries in their on-field sides after a bruising opening half hour.
Five minutes from the interval the Maroons were over to level the scores with Dane Gagai collecting a Selwyn Cobbo grubber and going five to score after the winger had done well to take a bounce pass and break down the wing for twenty metres before putting the kick in. Valentine Holmes added the conversion to give Queensland the lead.
Within two minutes of losing the lead, the Blues had a try disallowed for obstruction as it appeared that Damian Cook had put Junior Paulo over, Queensland going into the sheds with a two-point lead after Cam Munster failed to land a drop goal attempt on the half time hooter.
An ankle injury to Jeremiah Nanai saw the Queenslander assisted from the field just three minutes after the restart.
A great break by Munster on forty-seven, breaking two tackles, hitting a gap and going forty metres before being halted resulted in a Maroons scrum after a Blues hand in the tackle. From the scrum Daly Cherry-Evans took the ball at first receiver, and as the New South Wales forwards were held in the scrum, he went through the defence to dive over. Holmes added a simple conversion for an eight-point lead.
On fifty-three Queensland grasped the game by the throat as Holmes took a Kalyn Ponga miss-out pass to go over in the corner and round closer to the sticks to make his own kick a little easier for an 18-4 lead, however, he was unable to add the extras, the Blues now two converted tries behind.
New South Wales needed to score next, and quickly.
Nine minutes from the final hooter Cameron Murray found a gap in the tiring Queensland defence to go in from ten metres out through a broken defence. Cleary added the conversion, the deficit down to six points with seven minutes remaining.
New South Wales were throwing everything that they had at Queensland but they couldn´t find that moment of magic to break the line again.
A classic Origin match which sets the scene for the series, Queensland winning in the backyard of the opposition to take a one game series lead. It simply served to whet the appetite for the second game in just under three weeks’ time as the Blues need the win to keep the series alive.
New South Wales: Tedesco, To´o, Staggs, Wighton (T), Tupou, Luai, Cleary (G), Haas, Cook, Campbell-Gillard, Martin, Sims, Yeo. Subs: Crichton, Murray (T), Paulo, Matterson. 18th: Hynes.
Queensland: Ponga, Cobbo, Holmes (T, 2G), Gagai (T), Coates, Munster, Cherry-Evans (T), Fa´asuameleaui, Hunt, Papalii, Capewell, Kaufusi, Cotter. Subs: Grant, Collins, Carrigan, Nanai. 18th: Arrow.
Score Progression: 4-0, 4-4, 4-6 : HT : 4-10, 4-12, 4-16, 8-16, 10-16: FT.
Lead Exchange: NSW – Square – QLD.
Referee: Ashley Klein.