Game one of the 2015 State of Origin series has been played and won by Queensland by the slimmest of margins, the Maroons defeating the NSW Blues 11-10. Here are the key things learnt from the series curtain raiser.
1. There isn’t a lot splitting the teams: In a game that finished 11-10, this might seem obvious, but it was a credit to NSW that the score remained as close as it was, with some mistakes and some repeat sets allowing Queensland plenty of ball, but the Blues didn’t let them get away. The forward battle was entertaining, and a game of two halves, with NSW dominating the first stanza up the middle, while Queensland’s big men fired up for the second. Had NSW not put pressure on themselves unnecessarily at points, the result may have been entirely different.
2. The NSW halves paring is still a problem: Mitchell Pearce and Trent Hodkinson were much maligned choices before the game, and it is debatable whether that will have changed after the match. The Queensland back three were easily able to field most kicks on the full. Attacking kicks were equally unimpressive, with Hodkinson’s going directly across field. The real icing on the cake came when the halfback failed to find touch with a shocking kick for the sideline following a penalty, heaping pressure on a NSW line that was already being tested. Pearce did make some inroads on a couple of occasions when he stepped and took on the line, but the fact he did this just twice in the game was a concern. The halves also went missing when they should have been pushing for a field goal, first running wide, before miscommunication saw Dugan take the shot instead of Hodkinson. Blake Austin is still a solution, with his direct, energetic style of play the kind that would keep Queensland on the back foot. A Pearce-Austin combination would put a lot more fear in the Maroons’ camp.
3. Greg Inglis really was struggling, and it impacted Queensland: Inglis is unstoppable on his day, but last night, the Queensland centre looked like he was unstartable instead. Their were none of his trademark runs over his opposition, no fends, just slow movement into a defense that contained him easily as a result. At one point, he could have crossed for a try had he pushed over the NSW player attempting to make the tackle, however opted to pass instead, with the result a NSW ball as the quick hands saw the Steeden fly over the sideline. You can expect a fit and firing Inglis in the second game which should allow a more potent Maroons’ attack .
4. Referee’s don’t have to provide talking points: The performance of the referees last night was a solid one, which was a sigh of relief for both fans and administrators of the game. It was a fair contest, with a couple of minor controversies, but nothing to stir up endless debate around the water cooler today. Well done Mr. Gerard Sutton. While some players may not be there in game 2, this official sure will be.
5. Will Chambers is a star and Aaron Woods is a machine: If Chambers wasn’t a winger, he would have been man of the match. The Queenslander was a star last night, helping lift the burden from forwards by taking hit ups for his side (total of 228m), scoring a try to lock up the game, and defending admirably. He will be a key figure in the Queensland side for years to come based on his exploits last night. If NSW won, Woods was the key performer and a good shot at man of the match honours, making a well earned 156m up the middle, as well as 38 tackles.
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