Gallant NSW standing on the brink of history
NSW produced one of the greatest defensive displays in the history of Origin, while displaying confidence and composure not seen since the ‘Joey’ Johns era. The underdogs’ ability to hold off wave after wave of Queensland pressure in the second half was phenomenal. The latter stages seemed destined for an all-too-familiar Maroons’ comeback victory, but NSW refused to cave. Jarryd Hayne and Paul Gallen were superhuman, but there were heroes across the park – many of whom played through injuries – as the Blues showed a new-found belief.
After claiming a series opener in Brisbane for the first time in 11 years, the Blues deservedly head back to Sydney with one hand on the shield – but they need to keep a lid on the euphoria after such an emotion-charged win. But, Laurie Daley’s courageous troops should momentarily bask in the glory of their performance which, if they go on to break Queensland’s eight-year stranglehold, will arguably go down as the state’s finest Origin win.
Queensland caught on the hop, again
Last night represented the fourth straight series opener Queensland has produced a well-below-par performance, and the second consecutive campaign NSW has managed to capitalise on the champs’ slow start. Despite opening the scoring early, the Maroons were genuinely rattled by the loss of Cooper Cronk to a broken arm. Daly Cherry-Evans – arguably the game’s best No.7 – did not settle until after halftime, while Queensland’s structures went out the window for the most part, with pushed passes and impatience the order of the night for the vanquished hosts. The Maroons have not saved a series with a game two win in Sydney since (gulp) 1987.
No form, no props cost Maroons
Starting front-rowers Nate Myles and Matt Scott were among Queensland’s best, but they lacked support from their all-backrow bench. Meanwhile, the faith shown in out-of-form Josh Papalii was not repaid, and Chris McQueen and Ben Te’o are also no certainties to be retained for game two. Jacob Lillyman, Josh McGuire and David Taylor are right in the mix for a Sydney call-up, along with the injured Sam Thaiday. Queensland badly needed one more big body.
Interstate hate will never fade
Brimming with spite, niggle and ferocity on both sides of the ball, Australian sport’s greatest rivalry proved it is as bitter as ever. It was rugged and relentless, with flashes of brilliance, plenty of fire and drama, and a pulsating finish. State of Origin brought up its century in the style that has made the concept such a runaway success. An instant classic.
Halves gamble pays dividends, but Reynolds could miss game two
The balance provided by new halves Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson, and the enthusiasm, poise and confidence the novices displayed, was just the tonic for NSW. The Bulldogs’ linchpins were superb throughout and justified Laurie Daley’s gamble with interest. But Reynolds could miss the return clash in Sydney after being slapped with a grade two dangerous throw on Brent Tate. Getting the charge downgraded is Reynolds’ only chance of lining up in game two. Tate’s explosive post-match interview has not help Reynolds’ cause, while the Bulldogs’ bye this weekend has potentially sealed his fate – which exposes the fallacies of the judiciary system around this time of year.
Refs almost blow it
Thank the Rugby League gods NSW hung on in the dying stages, because referees Shayne Hayne and Ben Cummins came up with two abhorrent decisions against the Blues inside the final minute which would have totally overshadowed one of the great Origin games if Queensland had got home. A dud call also led to the Maroons’ try in the opening minutes, with the hosts incorrectly awarded a scrum feed after Brent Tate had knocked the ball on.
Warzone clouds Sydney clash
Form and suspension will not be the only factors that dictate who survives the brutal series opener to front up for the return clash in Sydney. Cooper Cronk will miss the rest of the series with a broken arm in a huge blow for Queensland, while Cameron Smith’s ankle injury is also a concern. A neck injury has clouded Paul Gallen’s place in game two, the Morris twins both sustained injuries – Josh a knee complaint and Brett an AC-joint injury – and Anthony Watmough suffered a reported torn bicep. Stay tuned for some medical results that will have a major bearing on the remainder of the series.
State of Origin Game One Player Ratings
- Jarryd Hayne: Arguably the greatest performance by a fullback in Origin history. Set up the first try, scored the second himself and was magnificent and brave at the back. 9.5
- Brett Morris: Embarrassed by Darius Boyd in the opening minutes but hit back to nab the Blues’first try, recovered from a dislocated shoulder while scoring and produced a superb try-saver on Boyd in the second half to save NSW’s bacon. 7
- Michael Jennings: Few opportunities in open space, but looked dangerous with the ball and was sound in defence. 6
- Josh Morris: Did an outstanding job defensively on danger-man Greg Inglis and chalked up a fine assist for his twin brother’s try. 7
- Daniel Tupou: A couple of shaky moments under the high ball but looked far from overawed and ran strongly. 6
- Josh Reynolds: Typically terrier-like in a brilliant maiden Origin start, threatening every time he ran the ball and cleaning up on several occasions. His enthusiasm and commitment was key, but is in trouble for a dangerous throw on Brent Tate. 8.5
- Trent Hodkinson: Rock-solid debut that was better than at least 11 of Mitchell Pearce’s 12 Origin displays. Got better as the contest wore on and his composure was crucial to the win. Kicked well in general play and made 21 tackles without a miss. 8
- Aaron Woods: Buried the memories of his disappointing first campaign with a powerful performance up front, running for over 100 metres and making 24 tackles. 7.5
- Robbie Farah: Steered the Blues around expertly and topped the tackle count –exactly what we’ve come to expect from the veteran rake. 7
- James Tamou: Big-hearted effort, making 85 metres and 30 tackles in a relentless contest. 7
- Beau Scott: Did the job asked of him by Laurie Daley, producing a trademark aggressive performance even if his numbers did not stand out. 6.5
- Ryan Hoffman: Mr Dependable, the veteran racked up 21 tackles and 84 metres from 12 carries. 7
- Paul Gallen: Another herculean effort from NSW’s greatest Origin forward, making 29 tackles and 173 metres from a game-high 22 runs. Recovered from a punishing Josh Papalii hit to finish the match. A heroic captain’s knock. 9
- Anthony Watmough: Strong effort off the bench without dominating. 6.5
- Trent Merrin: Limited opportunities to display his full range of skills, but solid nevertheless. 6
- Luke Lewis: Looked good in limited minutes. 6
- Tony Williams: Used sparingly, but caused problems for Queensland running the ball. 6
- Billy Slater: One of his finest representative displays, making a game-high 175 metres and two line breaks as the most dangerous ball-runner on the field. Vintage. 8.5
- Darius Boyd: Professionally finished both of Queensland’s tries to take his tally to 14 in 18 games. 7
- Greg Inglis: Worked very hard, making 134 metres from 15 runs and 12 tackles, but was well contained. 7
- Justin Hodges: Looked dangerous on occasion but a patchy display. Too preoccupied with niggle. 6
- Brent Tate: Typically hardworking and courageous, running for 164 metres –most of them coming out of his own territory. 7
- Johnathan Thurston: Tried hard all night but couldn’t land the killer blow for Queensland as he has so often in the past, while he was stood up defensively a couple of times. 6.5
- Cooper Cronk: Forced off the field with a broken arm inside the first 10 minutes in a huge blow to player, club and state. 3
- Matt Scott: Strong performance, but was unable to reproduce his unstoppable recent club form. Made 24 tackles and 89 metres from nine carries. 7
- Cameron Smith: Topped the tackle count with 46 and controlled play around the rucks, but his impact was muted. Bravely played through an ankle injury suffered in the second half. 7
- Nate Myles: The Maroons’best forward, making 15 runs for 120 metres and 31 tackles: every one of them a bone-rattler. 8
- Chris McQueen: A palatable display, but struggled to impose himself on the contest. 6
- Matt Gillett: Tried as hard as any Maroons’ forward and was superb defensively with 30 tackles, but let down by a couple of mistakes. 7
- Corey Parker: Hardworking as ever, making 90 metres from 12 runs and 33 tackles, but was overshadowed by Gallen. 7
- Daly Cherry-Evans: Looked like a deer in the headlights coming on for Cronk initially, before settling into the role after halftime. He was shut down well by the Blues. 6
- Ben Te’o: Ran powerfully in the second half. 6
- Aidan Guerra: Fine debut and appeared comfortable at this level, making 69 metres and 21 tackles. Should retain his spot even if Sam Thaiday returns. 6.5
- Josh Papalii: Racked up plenty of tackles but made just three runs. Besides his fractionally late hit on Gallen, made minimal impact and is unlikely to be retained. 4
Will has published two books on Rugby League:
- A History of State of Origin
- A Short History of Rugby League in Australia
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