A shock. An upset. A boilover. Whatever you want to call it, the Queensland Maroons have upset the New South Wales Blues in game 1 of the 2020 Origin series.
Played in Adelaide, the Origin rivalry and game may not have been as fierce in the past given circumstances, but it still means so much to players.
Led by the masterful Wayne Bennett who answered an SOS call to coach the Maroons, a half-time team talk ultimately did the trick.
The Maroons went down 10-0 but even at that stage, Bennett says he was not worried.
“I wasn’t happy at 10-0 but I wasn’t worried,” Bennett said. “Ten-nil is always gettable, if they had gone to 16-0 or 20-0 that would have been worrying.
“I thought we won it in the first half actually because we hung in there and hung in there and we didn’t concede any soft tries. I thought that was important.”
Defence reigned supreme for the first quarter of the match before NSW struck first and opened the scoring.
Damien Cook grubbered ahead for himself and was able to regather and score after the ball ricocheted off a Queensland defender.
The two sides were not without injury concerns, however; Brenko Lee’s calf saw him ruled out in the warm-up.
There were also HIA concerns for NSW captain Boyd Cordner – who did return – and Cam Murray, who limped off with a hamstring injury.
The Blues would extend their lead when an overlap was created down the flank after good work from James Tedesco and Clint Gutherson.
Winger Josh Addo-Carr was there to finish off the play and the Blues went into the break up 10-0.
Kurt Capewell then caught fire for the Maroons and made the difference, as he broke the line and kicked ahead for AJ Brimson to score.
Just three minutes later, the Maroons would score yet again through debutant Xavier Coates.
Veteran Dane Gagai showed his silky skills, as he brushed off defenders, drew in Tedesco and found Coates for an easy try.
Cam Munster would get in on the scoring as he grubbered ahead and won the race to the ball ahead of Daniel Tupou.
The game would turn into a dogfight after that and the Blues refused to lie down.
Gutherson and Addo-Carr would combine a second time to narrow the deficit for the Blues.
For the last few minutes, they did have an extra man when Felise Kaufusi was sin-binned but it was not to be.
Bennett had praise for all his players who were able to follow his guidance and dig deep.
“I wasn’t worried about their self-belief, I just thought that they put a Maroon jersey on and they know the expectation that comes with it,” Bennett said.
“They trained excellently for 10 days and I didn’t think self-belief was going to be a problem.”
Blues coach Brad Fittler lamented his side’s inability to put the game away when they needed to.
“I thought we let it slip in the first half, we sucked absolutely no juice out of them,” Fittler said.
“It was three tries each and a couple of one-on-one misses that hurt us.
They’re State of Origin tries and take nothing away from Queensland. They played to the conditions perfectly.”
With much criticism levelled at the halves, Fittler believes the two were “good” and will bounce back in Sydney.
“I think the halves [Cleary and Luke Keary] are pretty disappointed with their first half. I thought [Cleary] was good, his defence was strong,” Fittler continued.
“It’s a good challenge for him, I’ll back him.
“I thought [Walker] was good, very dangerous. There were a few different options but when he came on I thought he gave us every chance to win the game.”
NRL News Player of the Game
3. Kurt Capewell (QLD)
2. Cameron Munster (QLD)
- Josh Addo-Carr (NSW)