Elinya Chenery reviews a tense Origin opener …
NSW Blues 10
Tries: Jack Wighton (14), Cameron Murray (71)
Goals: e.g., Nathan Cleary 1 (71)
QLD Maroons 16
Tries: Dane Gagai (34), Daly Cherry-Evans (48), Valentine Holmes (53)
Goals: Valentine Holmes 2 (36, 49)
MATCH REPORTEmbed from Getty Images
With a dry track and still conditions, the first game of the 2022 State of Origin series started hard and fast. The first quarter of the match was comprised mainly of end-to-end footy, with the New South Wales side taking the challenge to their rivals north of the border with big hits on the end of numerous kick returns. Despite an early chance at first points, the opportunity went begging with the New South Wales winger, the Panthers’ Brian To’o, unwilling to tempt fate with a break down the sideline.
Whilst QLD seemed strapped for metres coming out of their own half, a reliving penalty for being dragged over the sideline after held was called would give the Maroons their first real attacking chance. This attacking raid would end in disappointment for the visitors, with the set inside the Blues’ 10 ending unceremoniously with the first of many red zone attack knock ons by Queensland.
It appeared for a good portion of the first half of this game that the Maroons’ defence was simply too solid for anything the Blues were capable of dishing up, until a try-saving knock down and subsistent six again on Queensland’s left edge opened up their right for incumbent Jack Wighton. Despite media scrutiny of the highest degree surrounding his selection and starting position, Wighton was able to quiet the doubters with the opening try of the match, capitalising on a gap created by Queensland with their focus on the outside man in To’o.
Despite benefiting from an unfortunate upper ankle injury that ended Xavier Coates’ night, NSW struggled with field position for the remainder of the half following their try, exasperated by an unusually ineffective kicking game by halfback Nathan Cleary, compounded by his earlier missed conversion attempt.
A stroke of genius saw young Selwyn Cobbo make a break down the sideline, putting in a neatly placed kick for Origin legend Dane Gagai to clean up over the try line for Queensland’s first points. A successful conversion attempt from Valentine Holmes saw Queensland go into the break up by two, after an under-the-posts crashover try by Junior Paulo was denied by the Bunker in the dying minutes of the first 40.
HALF-TIME: NSW Blues 4 Queensland Maroons 6Embed from Getty Images
New South Wales got first use of the footy with Queensland kicking off to start the second half. It was an unfortunate end to a memorable night for Maroons debutant Jeremiah Nanai who left the field in a world of pain after coping a nasty knock whilst making a tackle.
Despite NSW making a tackle break a set, they struggled immensely to make it out of their own half with perfectly weighted kicks from Cameron Munster and Queensland captain Daly Cherry-Evans. It was Cherry-Evans himself who opened the scoring for the second half with a set play seeing him swing around to the right of a scrum on the 10 metre line to cross the white line.
With Kotoni Staggs heading up the tunnel with injury concerns, Stephen Crichton took the pitch for his Origin debut. It was an unfortunate start for the Penrith star, conceding a penalty for a dangerous tackle on Munster within seconds of taking the field.
A crafty cut-out ball from Kalyn Ponga saw Valentine Holmes stroll over the line to put the visitors ahead by two converted tries going into the final quarter of the game.
A small scuffle erupted on the sidelines, but was promptly overshadowed by the Blues’ near desperation for a dying minutes comeback. Cameron Murray was the man who stood up and created some individual magic to put the Blues back within a converted try with nine minutes left to play.
It was a tense final few minutes until the full-time siren, with both sides making line breaks and threatening to score more than once. The Blues caught a break with a helping penalty to carry them down the field for one final set. The game finally concluded with a somewhat controversial time off signal by Ashley Klein whilst the Blues attempted to create one final miracle and cross the line to potentially send the game to Golden Point.
FULL-TIME: NSW Blues 10 Queensland Maroons 16
ORIGIN PLAYER OF THE YEAR POINTSEmbed from Getty Images
3 pts – Cameron Munster (Maroons), 2 pts – Harry Grant (Maroons), 1 pt – Selwyn Cobbo (Maroons)
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