State vs. State, mate vs. mate. Weeks of speculation culminated in the State of Origin opener Wednesday night with Queensland bringing home the bacon in a tight finish. It was another close Origin match that should have been considered a classic tough rubber but it was surprisingly lackluster in comparison to what we have come to expect from the series. There are a lot of reasons to blame for the average game, maybe Shannon Noll’s pre-match performance put the boys off, but there were also some very impressive points in the match. The following is an analysis of game 1.

The Aftermath

“They will be there for game 2. There’s your headline”. Laurie Daley seems to be confident in Blues’ halves Pearce and Hodkinson but there is now a push being made for Jamie Soward to replace Hodkinson after his dreadful performance. Matt Scott will most likely miss this week’s match up against the Sea Eagles due to a corked leg. Robbie Farah is expected to miss two to four weeks and potentially the next State of Origin game for a grade three AC joint injury (shoulder). Justin Hodges and Sam Thaiday are in doubt for the Broncos game.

The Good

After years of painfully inappropriate grand final acts the NRL finally have an entertainment package to be proud of – Cold Chisel are playing the 2015 NRL Grand Final y’all.

QLD showed they still have some of the flair that helped them win eight in a row but there is no denying they are on the decline. The Storm boys put on a show and proved the difference in the game.

After probably having horrific nightmares about facing Beau Scott again Jonathan Thurston finally bit back by dropping the big fella in the second half.

The depth in the NSW forward pack was better than QLD and the team’s overall defence was impressive.

The Bad

First things first. Where was Gus’ pre game speech?! You dropped the ball Channel Nine.

The second half should have been where NSW proved their worth with a circulating bench that should have destroyed QLD in the ruck. However, and this is just speculation, I believe the major flaw for NSW was the strategy employed by Laurie Daley. It is obvious from the selections and comments made that Daley’s main focus is defence. Going into the break with a 4 point lead I assume Daley decided to employ 100% into defending the line and holding the lead. Pearce was putting up high bombs with NSW not putting any effort into chasing but instead setting up their line defence. It didn’t pay off for them in the end.

The defensive tactics of NSW provides a lack of entertaining play from their side and a lot more errors against a much more susceptible QLD defence while the capable offence of QLD is shut down by NSW’s strong defence. This stalemate has made the last few origin games less entertaining than what we expect from State of Origin.

NSW needed to be circulating their second row more. Trent Merrin hardly got a look in.

Stand Out Players

Cameron Smith- He put on a show for his 5th State of Origin Man of the Match performance by controlling a fair chunk of Queensland’s attack and backing up in defence. His 4th tackle kicking caught NSW backs off guard and resulted in excellent field position for QLD, he created the team’s first try with the help of his half, Cooper Cronk, and almost got himself a solo try in the second half.

Cooper Cronk – He scored a try, helped control QLD’s attack with his kicking game and scored the winning field goal.

Will Chambers – Looked like the most dangerous player on the field all night and racked up 223 total running metres.

NSW Props – Woods and Tamou chewed up 229 total running metres together throughout the whole game and a stellar offload from Tamou opened a gap for Dugan to run through and his well placed kick with a fortunate bounce provided Josh Morris with a try.

Robbie Farah – 60 tackles. That basically sums up his night. He saved a try from Cameron Smith.

Justin Hodges – Only stands out because he proved he was the biggest scum bag on the field that night. At least he got a bit of a tussle going, something that was sorely missed.

Disappointing players

Greg Inglis- blame it on the illness if you must but Inglis has been disappointing the majority of the year including a very average performance in the ANZAC test.

Jonathan Thurston- You could tell he was trying very hard to create magic all night particularly by running the ball but it just wasn’t paying off for the pivot.

Trent Hodkinson- He was only selected last year because Pearce screwed up off the field and because his halves partner Josh Reynolds was the next best option. The selection is even more baffling when he has been in bad form all year. Why would you expect him to be any better in State of Origin? He was making bad mistakes all night, almost let Slater score a try and worst of all he hardly even performed his job as a half and sat back and watched Pearce do his dirty work.

Where do we go from here?

The QLD spine is evidently still the best option but they definitely need to blood some new players to the team. The inclusion of Will Chambers exemplifies how important this is. Dropping Hodges could make way for the likes of Valentine Holmes or Dane Gagai. Dylan Napa is a must in the forward pack.

The expected return of Brett Morris and Paul Gallen should help boost the NSW squad. As a team consisting of mostly beat-stick running types it could really be boosted by the inclusion of a spark player which could come in the form of Moylan or Austin as a utility or Dylan Walker or James Tedesco in the backs. Obviously Trent Hodkinson needs to go and there is no lack of players that would do a better job. Players such as Maloney, Soward, Sezer, Austin and Townsend would all be better options and would allow Pearce to play at half. If Farah is out then Ennis is the best option with the series on the line because of his experience and form.

NOTE: Stats taken from http://www.nrlstats.com/