The New South Wales Blues have come out firing in Game 1 of the State of Origin series; claiming an impressive victory at ANZ Stadium 18-10 in front of near 70,000 vocal fans.
It was a committed and physical NSW side that stamped their authority from the opening minutes and continued their hard hitting defence style throughout; not allowing the likes of Israel Folau, Billy Slater and Karmichael Hunt any room or time to work their magic plays.
The Blues played smart for the most part when they had the ball in their hands and chose the ideal times to push the pass or attack the line.
Craig Fitzgibbon started for the NSW side and pushed Ben Cross to the bench, his steady hand in defence a key component – however the goal-kicking from NSW let them down, only landing 1 from 4 with Fitzgibbon and Wallace sharing the duties.
Rookie winger Anthony Quinn bagged a first half double while fellow debutant Anthony Laffranchi also crossed along with fullback Brett Stewart as the Blues claimed a 4 tries to 2 win.
The tough Quinn looked right at home in Origin, taking it right to the Queensland opponents and proving a real handful. While damaging in attack, it was the perfect decision making from Quinn in defence that saw the Melbourne flanker kill off several near certain tries for Queensland, in one instance Quinn racing out of the line to smash Billy Slater ball and all in one of the hits of the match.
Debuting halfback Peter Wallace played a superb role for the NSW side, looking calm and having a mountain of time to get his kicks and selective passes away. Man of the match Greg Bird assisted him well, protecting Wallace at times and lending a hand with a pinpoint long kicking game. Bird was at his running best, making the Maroons work hard every time his footwork clicked into gear – the stocky running pivot making good metres and dragging defenders with him every time.
It’s hard to single out various players for NSW, with all the forwards having solid games and the centre pairing in Mark Gasnier and Matt Cooper coming up with a stack of line breaks to give their side the upper hand on the fringes. The NSW centres also contained their highly fancied opponents when they had the ball, Greg Inglis rarely able to break free and the same could be said for the well contained Folau.
Queensland wingers Brent Tate and Israel Folau scored tries just before half and full time but the Maroons were never able to recover from NSW’s superb start.
Queensland didn’t show their usual focus and commitment and while they had the sparkling backline, for once the roles were reversed and NSW relied on raw emotion and passion to get them over the line.
Karmichael Hunt could be the victim when selections come round for Game 2, while he was brave in defence he simply had to deal with too much tackling and had no energy left to put on any creative attacking play.
Jonathan Thurston was busy all night and worked hard, probing the NSW line with kicks and darting runs be he couldn’t break the shackles. The on-line defence for the Blues was near perfect, with the line scrambling well to snuff out several close calls as the Maroons threw everything at them at various stages.
Injury concerns coming out of the game remain around Dallas Johnson who was heavily concussed after coming into contact with a Willie Mason knee and Blues back-rower Anthony Laffranchi who suffered a shoulder problem after scoring a late try off a Mark Gasnier line break and offload.
NSW will head to Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium to try to secure the series on June 11.