The Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane was the venue for the opening fixture of the three game Holden State of Origin 2019 series as one of the seasons most awaited games pitched the Maroons of Queensland against the Blues of New South Wales.
This is the start of the thirty-eighth State of Origin series with Queensland well ahead on twenty-one series wins. New South Wales took the series win last year, the first time that they had taken the honours since 2014. The Blues won the opening two games in 2018, by 22-12 and 18-14 before Queensland picked up the dead rubber with an 18-12 win.
Queensland were hoping, and expecting a win on home soil as Kevin Walters rallied his charges against Brad Fittlers New South Wales. There were certain to be fireworks.
New South Wales were quick out of the blocks with James Tedesco almost getting on the end of a low grubber on seven. On eleven they took the opportunity of a kick at goal with Nathan Cleary slotting the ball between the uprights for a 2-0 lead.
On sixteen the Maroons looked to have hit the Blues with a sucker punch as they broke downfield and after a right to left passing move went over in the corner but the video referee spotted a foot in touch in the act of scoring.
The Blues scored the first four pointer through Josh Morris after a goal line drop out had been forced. Tedesco was the provider as he drew the defender before releasing his centre through the gap to go over from eight metres out. Cleary drew his conversion between the uprights for 8-0.
Queensland had a Dylan Napa try ruled out on twenty-nine after the video referee ruled that he’d knocked on in the act of scoring after the ball bounced off the post pad and into the goal area. Queensland should have been ahead but were scoreless.
It was a breathless first half, New South Wales leading by 8-0 but probably wondering how Queensland had not registered a single point.
Queensland were back in the game on fifty-two, following a NSW goal line drop out, as Corey Oates flew over on the corner for a spectacular try off a Kalyn Ponga miss-out pass. Ponga added the conversion, in off the near upright, for 6-8.
On fifty-six Morgan was held up over the line by ferocious Blues defence as Queensland started to dominate the game.
Latrell Mitchell was sin-binned on fifty-seven for a professional foul, interfering with the chasing Queensland player as he went to collect a grubber. Ponga kicked the resulting penalty to level the scores at 8-8 and there was only looking like one possible winnner.
Down to twelve me, New South Wales coundn’t make any headway as Queensland probed and prodded for the opening. On sixty-six Dane Gagai intercepted a Jack Wighton pass just five metres from his own line and sprinted to the line to put the Maroons into the lead. Ponga pulled his kick wide of the right upright, the lead just four points with eleven minutes of the game remaining.
When Tedesco uncharacteristically lost the ball deep in his own half, Queensland used three tackles before Ponga put Gagai free down the right wing for the winger to fly over in the corner, and ground one-handed by the flag. Ponga added the touchline conversion for 18-8, a tremendous three unanswered tries for the Maroons as they secured the win on the opening game of the series.
Trbojevic grabbed NSW a lifeline on seventy-five when he crashed over under the sticks after taking a short pass five metres from the line. Cleary added the conversion to again reduce the margin to four points and set up a grandstand finish.
Mitchell went close on seventy-eight, but NSW knocked-on as they pushed for the line on the last tackle. The Blues finished the game on the offensive but the final hooter sounded the before they could test the line one final time.
Despite trailing 8-0 at the interval, Queensland will havegone into the break feeling that they could, and perhaps should, have been in the lead. They didn’t make the same mistake in the second half as they set about demolishing New South Wales by keeping their attack quiet and testing their defence. The interception try from Gagai, while the gane was still in the balance, was the game changer and it provided the platform for them to build the win.
Queensland will enter the all-important second game on the 23rd June with the advantage, and the momentum to win the series.
Queensland: Ponga (3G), Oates (T), Morgan, Chambers, Gagai (2T), Munster, Cherry-Evans, Arrow, Hunt, Papalii, Kaufusi, Gillett, McGuire. Subs: Mbye, Ofahengaue, Napa, Fifita.
NSW: Tedesco, Cotric, Mitchell (SB on 57), Morris (T), Addo-Carr, Walker, Cleary (3G), Klemmer, Cook, Vaughan, Cordner, Frizell, Trbojevic (T). Subs: Wighton, Haas, Murray, Crichton.
Referees: Gerrard Sutton and Ashley Klein.