QLD prevail in sloppy contest
The first game of the 2016 State of Origin series was a rather torrid affair where all the game’s points were scored in the first half. Sam Thaiday eloquently likened the game to losing one’s virginity “It wasn’t very nice but we got the job done”. The match finished at one try apiece with a penalty goal taken at the 15th minute proving to be the difference.
There was nothing between the two teams as far as stats were concerned. NSW finished with 51% of possession to QLD’s 49, the penalty count was even and both teams were only marginally better than one another in missed tackles and errors. In the end while both teams underperformed it was the experience of the Maroons that ensured they held onto a narrow two point lead for the duration of the second half while NSW were unable to capitalize and steal the victory.
Cronk’s sinews not perfectly aligned
If there was any sign or factor that QLD were well below their best it was that Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk failed to really stamp their authority on the game. They combined well to produce a slick backline movement for Gagai’s try but never really threatened to break the game open or make NSW play on their terms. Cronk actually played like he was injured and under-done with pre-game footage confirming there was no mind-games on QLD’s behalf or that the Maroons know an exceptional make-up artist with severe bruising very visible on Cronk’s ankle.
While Cronk may not have been in perfect working condition and a poor defensive read from him resulted in Maloney putting Cordner through a gap for NSW’s only try he still proved himself to be the consummate champion player. In spite of his mistake he was able to guide his team to a victory even when the momentum was often against them and they were making uncharacteristic errors. It’ll be a very tough ask for NSW to take on QLD in Game II up at Lang Park when Cronk has had a chance to fully recover from his ankle injury.
Mixed night out for NSW debutants
NSW had four players on debut, three of which played significant game time and while they all had solid debuts for the most part they also had their uneasy moments.
Josh Mansour had a strong performance running for 100m and breaking 5 tackles. He fulfilled his role as an Origin winger level taking the pressure off his forwards with strong runs out of the 20 and he looked dangerous on the occasions he got the ball near the line. However he was also responsible for a poor defensive read that saw Dane Gagai cross for QLD’s only try.
Matt Moylan’s playmaking skills offered a different dimension to NSW’s attack but failed to amount to much. He forced a repeat set and ran hard on his kick returns but he struggled under the high ball. Around three times he leaped high to defuse a kick but lost it backwards with only a bit of luck and hustle from his team-mates saving QLD from gaining favourable field position from his drops. Communication was lacking at the back between Moylan and Ferguson as they let the ball bounce from a bomb kick on two occasions and were unable to clean up another with Moylan losing it in-goal. It was a solid enough debut from my point of view with none of his errors proving to be costly but perhaps if a more dangerous runner of the ball like James Tedesco had been available, more attacking opportunities would have been converted into points.
Adam Reynolds was strong in defence but was ill-disciplined early in the game conceding two penalties and in the one conversion attempt he had, he missed a goal that he’d otherwise have usually been able to kick. His short kicking game was superb, forcing a few line drop-outs and allowing his team to continue to apply pressure. However his long kicking game was not as good with many of his punts landing straight onto the chest of Darius Boyd throughout the night. Reynolds was good for the most part but he’ll have to be great in order to come up with the points to beat the Maroons in Game II.
Was there any point to choosing Dylan Walker?
Dylan Walker’s inclusion in the NSW Blues side was certainly the decision that raised the most confusion amongst fans and after the game they’ll still be left wondering what he was selected for. He was held back until the last 10 minutes of the game but any impact he might have been expected to have certainly wasn’t there. Nobody gave him the ball in attack and most of his involvement seemed to revolve around defending as an edge forward. The solitary run he did take in the game resulted in an error in the play the ball from trying to milk a penalty that ended up gifting QLD possession and taking away a chance for NSW to put on another attacking set.
Walker can hardly be blamed for doing next to nothing as he had no say in how he was used by his coach. However it’d be an odd choice to retain him for the next game unless his role changed because replacing him on the bench with a genuine utility like Jack Bird or Blake Austin could provide some genuine spark and versatility. Also an extra forward on the bench like Tyson Frizell who could be used in bursts off the bench could grab some valuable metres and threaten in attack close to the line.
IN THE SHEDS
Michael Morgan succumbed to a head knock after only a few minutes on the field and didn’t return. Will likely be monitored with a short three-day turnaround for the Cowboys next game
Tries: Dane Gagai (37m)
Goals: Johnathan Thurston 1/2
New South Wales- 4
Tries: Boyd Cordner (25m)
Goals: Adam Reynolds 0/1