Origin opener goes to Queensland after dramatic fightback

It loomed as a modern day spectacle and it delivered, as a Queensland fightback saw them draw first blood in 2019 over New South Wales. 

With both sides fielding largely different sides from those we have become accustomed to seeing, it was a chance for the new kids on the block to shine.

So much emphasis was placed on the young cubs thrown into the gruelling, draining Origin arena, many forgot about the veteran cub.

Josh Morris. For, it was he who nabbed the first try of the game, when he carried two defenders over to score.

This was on the back of New South Wales already taking a two-nil lead from a Nathan Cleary penalty goal.

The early running and for the first 20 minutes of the first half, New South Wales had all the momentum.

The young bucks kicked, the old tails wagged, and all seemed to be flowing smoothly for the Blues.

Queensland then had two opportunities to try and get back on an even keel but those two chances went begging.

The first went to the video ref for a possible Dylan Napa try, though he was ruled to have knocked on in the process of grounding the ball.

The second came off a Cam Munster break, as he darted away and found Will Chambers, only for the centre’s pass to go astray and forward.

Up 8-0 at the break, the Blues were flying high and on top of the world.

Whatever was said to the Queensland players at half-time worked, though, and they would slowly stamp their authority on the game.

The first points finally came through Corey Oates, who soared through the air majestically to evade defenders and plant the ball down.

Surprising many soon after, Cody Walker was hooked from the side and replaced at five-eighth by Jack Wighton.

Strategic or crazy, we may never know.

Things started to then turn ugly for the Blues. After interference with Matt Gillett, Latrell Mitchell was sent to the bin.

Just like that, on the back of conceding a try, the Blues were down to 12 men.

Ponga slotted the ensuing penalty goal and the scores were locked up at 8-apiece.

Dane Gagai would then score a double that seemingly put the game to bed for the Maroons.

The first was a 95m intercept as he used all his speed, wit and guile to outrun and outpace the New South Wales defenders.

His second came off the back of a Ponga pass, in what was a simpler effort for the Queensland winger.

There was a grandstand finish looming, though, as Jake Trbojevic crashed under the posts to score to keep things interesting.

Queensland would hold on, though, to go up 1-0 in the series.

Not one to toot his own horn, Gagai’s efforts did not go unnoticed by his Queensland team-mates.

“When you are a winger you want them to do all the tough stuff, and don’t get me wrong he scored some great tries tonight, but defensively and his carries out of our own end were fantastic,” said captain Daly Cherry-Evans.

“He lights the game up and he is a great teammate.

“He has done all the people from Mackay really proud.”

Their lack of a complete performance let them down as did an inability to capitalise on good chances in the eyes of New South Wales hooker Damien Cook.

“It’s very disappointing, I thought we played some good footy tonight but it wasn’t a complete performance,” Cook said.

“In the second half, we didn’t create enough momentum and they capitalised on that tonight. It’s State of Origin, the best game.

“I think Queensland kept competing.

“There was opportunities there, and they took them.”

NRL News Player of the Game

3. Dane Gagai

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