Experience wins out as Queensland prevail

State of Origin Game I

A late field goal to Cooper Cronk was enough for Queensland to defeat New South Wales in a hard-fought State of Origin opener at ANZ Stadium. After trailing by 4 points at half-time Queensland fought back to edge in front despite some spirited defence by the Blues. Queensland were dominant at the start of the match, with Billy Slater having a try disallowed early. After a lot of offensive pressure Cronk was sent through by Cameron Smith to score. A couple of sloppy penalties let New South Wales get a foothold in the game, however, and soon afterwards Josh Dugan broke through to kick for Josh Morris, who planted the ball on the right wing. New South Wales continued to take control, and they took the lead through Beau Scott after a good passing move and a good short pass from Mitchell Pearce. Trent Hodkinson successfully converted and the rest of the half passed without much event, the only real point of interest when Nate Myles was held up on the line by a solid Blues defence who picked up Smith’s fake grubber easily.

The second half started badly for New South Wales as Queensland put them under early pressure. A kick for touch went horribly wrong for the Blues when the ball did not go out, and the Maroons very nearly capitalised on the opportunity when Greg Inglis’ pass was missed by Darius Boyd just two metres out from the line. Queensland continued to push, and some good work by Sam Thaiday and Cooper Cronk on the right allowed Will Chambers to get around the Blues line and score. Jonathan Thurston failed the conversion, keeping the scores level, and Queensland continued to dominate, at one point winning three line drop-outs in a row before Cameron Smith’s attempt at the line from dummy half was held up. New South Wales still could not get into any kind of scoring position, and Trent Merrin and Aaron Woods gave away a penalty when they combined to flip Thurston in a tackle. Thurston opted to kick and was nowhere near making the distance, allowing New South Wales to get back up the field. Fast-forward a few minutes, however, and Cronk had put the Maroons in front with a simple field goal attempt after New South Wales could not stop the halfback from getting a clear shot at the uprights. Dugan had the opportunity to level the scores when New South Wales got back into attack, but his field goal missed to the right, leaving Queensland to keep the ball for just one and a half minutes. When Ryan Hoffman stripped the ball away, giving the Maroons a penalty, the game was lost, and the Maroons could celebrate when Boyd grabbed a kick from Pearce and threw it jubilantly into the stands to seal a great victory.

Top 5
1. Jonathan Thurston (Queensland)
Thurston has been the Maroons’ key playmaker for all of his 31 Origin games, and this one was no different. Thurston was at his consistent best, orchestrating the Queensland attack with some good passes and seeing plenty of the ball. His combination with Cameron Smith was very effective throughout the match.

2. Cameron Smith (Queensland)
The Maroon’s captain was awarded the man of the match award after a great performance as a hooker. He was also very good and his combination with fellow veterans Thaiday and Cronk to set up the first try of the match was excellent. He also did some good defensive work in the second half to keep the Blues under pressure.

3. Josh Dugan (New South Wales)
Dugan was one of the best players afield in the first half, with his kick returns especially good. His decision to kick to set up Morris for the Blues’ first try was brilliant, although he fell off slightly in the second half. His kicking game was very good and he provided New South Wales with a valuable option in that regard.

4. Robbie Farah (New South Wales)
Farah, much like his opposite number Smith, was very effective in orchestrating the Blues’ attack. He had the ball more than any other Blues player on the field, and his decision making was effective. His passing was also very good, and he held up when pressed by the Maroons in their end zone.

5. Justin Hodges (Queensland)
Hodges was very effective for the Maroons in the second half, and was also good in the firstperiod of the game. He ran hard at the Blues line from start to finish, and he was effective in defence as well. He may be questioned for his tackle on Farah in the first half, but overall his performance was key to the Maroons’ success.

ANZ Stadium – Sydney
New South Wales 10 (Morris, B Scott tries, Hodkinson 1/2 gls)
Queensland 11 (Cronk, Chambers tries, Thurston 1/3 gls, Cronk 1 fg)
Referees: Gerard Sutton, Ben Cummins.
Man of the Match: Cameron Smith.

New South Wales: 1. Josh Dugan, 2. Will Hopoate, 3. Michael Jennings, 4. Josh Morris, 5. Daniel Tupou, 6. Mitchell Pearce, 7. Trent Hodkinson, 8. Aaron Woods, 9. Robbie Farah, 10. James Tamou, 11. Beau Scott, 12. Ryan Hoffman, 13. Josh Jackson. 14. Trent Merrin, 15. Boyd Cordner, 16. David Klemmer, 17. Andrew Fifita.
Queensland: 1. Billy Slater, 2. Darius Boyd, 3. Greg Inglis, 4. Justin Hodges, 5. Will Chambers, 6. Jonathan Thurston, 7. Cooper Cronk, 8. Matt Scott, 9. Cameron Smith, 10. Nate Myles, 11. Aidan Guerra, 12. Sam Thaiday, 13. Corey Parker. 14. Michael Morgan, 15. Josh McGuire, 16. Matt Gillett, 17. Jacob Lillyman.

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