Although the game may not have had the finesse, super skill and flair that many fans are used to seeing, the passion and intensity still existed, as QLD claimed first blood in what is likely to be a fiery Origin series.
With the game relatively tense and close across the board throughout the night, it was the field goal hero Cooper Cronk who yet again, crushed the hopes of NSW fans with a late field goal.
As a result, the Maroons took out the opening Origin game 11-10, and go into the second Origin with a big advantage, considering no more games will be played in NSW this series.
The execution from both sides was rather poor at times but it was NSW especially who had numerous chances to salvage the game by kicking a field goal of their own. Only to take the wrong option or see their field goal attempts sail wide.
With QLD attacking in wave after wave after wave, the NSW defence held resolute, drawing praise from a number of different avenues. That defence was not enough, though, as they could not stop Cronk from slotting home an easy field goal.
It was quite literally a game of two halves, as the early muscle and mobility in the NSW pack seemingly putting QLD on the ropes. The second half was all QLD though, as they toiled, hustled and fought back to eventually snare the 1-point come-from-behind win.
The early go-forward for the Blues set the tone with Aaron Woods and James Tamou impressing with their big runs, continually getting the NSW side over the advantage line.
But it was downhill come the second half, as poor ball control and a lack of composure saw the Blues complete just five of their nine sets in the half, letting QLD apply relentless pressure on their own line.
With the major talking point late-on that decision to run it on the last, only for the ball to end up in the hands of NSW centre Michael Jennings who kicked it dead, half Mitch Pearce admitted a field-goal was needed earlier in that set.
“We had an opportunity, we probably should have gone for a field goal there. It’s disappointing. I’ll have to watch it back. At the time, we still had our chance on the last tackle, but we probably should have set that up a bit better,” Pearce said.
“We talked about playing the set out and working for a field goal at the end so we probably could have gone for it a play earlier which was disappointing.”
As for QLD, they knew that the minute that grubber happened to go dead, they had a chance to quickly get down the field with an extra tackle and skipper Cam Smith pointed that out.
“As soon as that ball went dead myself, Cooper and JT [Johnathan Thurston] said that if we have an opportunity then we were going to take the one point and I thought our team did a very good job to get us into that position. Especially our early carries,” Smith said.
“We probably took 30 or 40 off them in our first three runs so we were really controlling there when we needed too. Cooper’s slotted a few over the couple of years whether it’s been for Queensland or for the Melbourne Storm so he struck it nicely and he struck it when it counted so it was a good play, a big play.”
In what was a scintillating performance from Will Chambers, which continues his stellar form so far in season 2015, he drew praise from coach Mal Meninga in a big way.
“The carries and efforts from Will Chambers, and Justin Hodges too, were exceptionally good,” Meninga said.
“It’s Will’s second game now [at Origin level] and I said after his first game it was one of the best ever debuts I’ve ever seen and his performance out there was close to the best second appearance I’ve seen as well.”
With a lot of conjecture over the NSW halves and just who should play there, NSW coach Laurie Daley was adamant that when game two rolls around, both Mitch Pearce and Trent Hodkinson will still be the halves.
“I thought they were terrific,” Daley said of the pair.
“I thought they really combined well. Mitch played with control, Hokko did the job we wanted him to do.
“They will be there for game two, there’s a headline for you.”
Player of the Game:
3. Will Chambers
2. Aaron Woods
1. Billy Slater
Queensland 11 (Cronk, Chambers tries; Thurston goal; Cronk field goal) defeated New South Wales 10 (Morris, Scott tries; Hodkinson goal). Half-time: New South Wales 10-6. Crowd: 80,122.