Queensland have beaten New South Wales by the narrowest of margins, gaining an 11-10 victory in the opening game of the 2015 series at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium in front of 80,122 spectators.
The Maroons came back from a half-time deficit of 10-6 and they will now head into the second game of the series in Melbourne in three weeks’ time with a one-game lead.
Fielding one of the most experienced and the oldest team in Origin history, Queensland used the Melbourne Storm connection to ease to victory.
They appeared to have opened the scoring in the eighth minute, when fullback Bill Slater touched down a Johnathan Thurston grubber kick, but Slater was penalised for pushing NSW’s halfback Trent Hodkinson as both players tried to reach the loose ball.
Five minutes later they made no mistake, however, as Cooper Cronk received the ball from Cameron Smith and stepped inside two defenders to touch down, and Johnathan Thurston’s goal gave the Queenslanders a six-point lead.
The Blues stormed back into the game on 20 minutes, however, when Josh Dugan made a break supporting an offload from James Tamou. Dugan kicked to the right and Josh Morris collected the ball to touch down, although Hodkinson couldn’t add the goal from the touchline.
Five minutes later Beau Scott took a short ball from Mitchell Pearce to go over the line, and this time Hodkinson was able to add the goal for NSW to take a four-point lead.
But in the second half they weren’t able to consolidate their lead, and the Queenslanders drew level when Will Chambers scored the try of the match in a move involving Cronk, Sam Thaiday and Slater and Chambers, but Thurston was unable to add the goal.
Defences were extremely tight, and when Queensland received a penalty on the halfway line in the 71st minute Thurston elected to kick for goal, but his effort fell short, and it was down to Cronk to close the scoring with a field-goal in the 74th minute.
NSW had one final opportunity when they got into the Queensland half of the field, but Dugan was wide with a field-goal attempt.
When Ryan Hoffman conceded a penalty for stealing the ball from Thaiday with 90 seconds remaining, that was the game up for New South Wales, who were left to ponder the fact that Queensland’s experience won the day as both teams now head for the Aussie Rules state of Victoria for the second game in this year’s Origin series.
To see a full report, photos and analysis of the opening game in this year’s State of Origin series, don’t forget to order a copy of next Monday’s League Express.