Queensland Rattled, But Come Back To Win Origin Opener

As Queensland crossed for their first try of the opening State Of Origin game after just five minutes, it was easy to worry that New South Wales were going to be on the wrong end of a big scoreline. Considering that for the next 20 minutes of the match, Queensland dominated possession and field position, New South Wales had every right to be blow off the back.

It didn’t happen.

The New South Wales defensive effort in State Of Origin one was nothing short of epic. It was the type of stanza that builds character in a footballer. They had everything thrown at them. The bounce of the ball didn’t go their way. They defended set after set, and they held the Maroons out.

That will be the overwhelming memory I take away from this game.

Queenslands forward pack was dominant over the first half hour of the match. It looked like a complete miss-match as Matt Scott and and Petero Civoniceva punched holes in the Blues line. To New South Wales credit, they would bend, but they manage not to break.

You could see that once New South Wales had some ball, they were troubling the Queensland defense. I mentioned on Twitter that I felt the game would be won or lost over Michael Jennings side of the field. On that side, New South Wales looked great in attack, but the defense was scrambling at best, and Queensland looked like scoring a few times down that side of the field.

With most of the possession, Queensland must have wondered how to feel at half time. They should have been up by at least two tries, if not three, but found themselves up only 6-0.

Coming out of the halftime break, one of the turning points in the match.

I’ve always said that at Origin level, you can’t afford to sit back and let the game play out. You have to make things happen, you have to attack the game. This is a lesson you would hope Brett Morris would now know.

A nice little Cooper Cronk kick behind his wing should have been covered. Instead he didn’t attack the ball, and left it, possibly because he thought Josh Dugan could have got it. It was Morris’ ball though, and his hesitation allowed Jharal Yow Yeh to get around him, attack the ball and claim a vital try.

It gave Queensland a 10-0 lead.

The next big turning point in the match happened just ten minutes later. With the Blues on the back foot, the Maroons got a penalty from in front. They took the penalty, trying to force NSW to score tree tries to win. Unbelievably, Thurston hit the upright and missed. It was a crack in the Maroon wall, and New South Wales took confidence from the chance they had been given.

Michael Jennings made a break and almost scored, only to lose the ball. Then New South Wales found space up the middle and Mitchell Pearce scored under the sticks.

Four minutes later, a beautiful backline play saw Dugan put a ball onto Jennings who found space. He didn’t make the same mistake twice, and all of a sudden the New South Wales side had rampaged to a 12-10 lead.

The game become frantic at that point, and Queensland went to their bread and butter.

A big run by Matt Scott caught New South Wales on the back foot. From then, it was a case of Thurston on to Lockyer, and a flying Billy Slater on the inside. Queensland scored right next to the posts. With 73 minutes gone, and New South Wales having done so much work, that was the play that won the game.

A few things to come out of the contest…

New South Wales chose to start the game with Dean Young at hooker and Michael Ennis on the bench. This proved to be a costly error. The New South Wales side was a completely different beast when Ennis came on. He was brilliant for the Blues and surely for the next game he will be given the full 80 minutes he deserves.

I thought Jennings showed the class he has when he finally gets some decent ball. Something he has lacked at Penrith for a few years now. Mark Gasnier on the other hand was completely dominated by his opposite men. He was a non entity in attack.

Pearce played OK as did Soward. You have to stick with them for the entire series.

I thought the majority of the New South Wales pack played well too, although Dean Young and Ben Creagh had no impact what so ever.

New South Wales would have killed to have been able to bring Jamal Idris off the bench in the second half. They needed some sort of impact from their bench in the forwards and you couldn’t ask for a better player than Idris in that regard. I hope to see him there for game two.

As for Dugan, really, a brilliant Origin debut. He showed why he was the clear cut choice over Hayne.

As for Queensland, they had a lot of things go their way, at home, and only just sneaked out the win. Petero Civoniceva wasn’t a factor in the second half and they started to fall apart in defense at a rapid rate.

They managed to pull through though on the back of Darren Lockyer, you could see he sensed they needed something and he stood up when it counted.

That’s the heart of a champion right there.

Dane Neilsen was brilliant in his Origin debut. I never had any doubts about his ability to play at this level. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he is a walk up start for this Queensland side in a few years from now.

Slater was a little quiet but you could see it wasn’t through lack of effort. New South Wales were all over him in defense, and he STILL managed to score the game winning try. You can’t give him anything!

I think with the roll Queensland were on early, and how bringing Michael Ennis on saw their key play makers under pressure, it really showed how New South Wales have approached Origin football over the past few years.

Ennis really attacked the game. He threw himself into the contest and was there to compete. That is where New South Wales have failed in the past. You can’t select a team to defend their way to victory at representative level. You need to be able to go after the win and attack the game.

I’ve got faith in Ricky Stuart seeing what we need and making the slight changes needed. Its not much, the Blues lacked the ball for most of the first half and the defensive work they did must have taken a toll on their attack later in the match, but those one or two changes will be the key to winning this Origin series.

That is something I still believe New South Wales is capable of.

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