The Queensland Maroons defence held firm to thwart a fiery NSW Blues squad and go up one-nil in the three-game Origin series.
The opening game in the NRL’s greatest contest lived up to expectation in front of a capacity crowd at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium. Both sides tore in from the start, hitting hard and getting the fans pumped. The first points went to the Maroons from a penalty conceded by James Tamou in the 15th minute for holding on too long in a tackle. Queensland veteran Johnathan Thurston took the two with a perfect kick that would prove the difference between two evenly matched teams.
The first try of the 2016 series came from Roosters forward Boyd Cordner 11 minutes later. James Maloney timed his pass beautifully to let Cordner cross, but Reynolds failed to convert. Queensland hit back with their first try in the 36th minute when they took the ball wide, outflanking the Blues defence and allowing winger Dane Gagai to score in the corner. Thurston’s attempt to convert was just wide of the right-hand upright, sending the teams in for half-time at 6-4.
Tempers flared as the second half opened, with both sides desperate to dominate. They settled after a few scuffles and a bit of push and shove on the sideline, but points proved to be elusive. Frustration and fatigue set in, resulting in numerous errors from both sides, but impressive goal line defence proved to be a highlight of the match with both sides defying consecutive sets and desperate offensive raids. After 25 minutes of bitter struggle the Blues finally appeared to breach the defence and allow Morris to drive at the line. The referee awarded a try but the Bunker ruled that Morris was short and overturned the decision.
Exhaustion played a part in the final 10 minutes, with both sides missing opportunities and conceding possession as Queensland held firm to keep the Blues at bay. Queensland 6, NSW 4.
Matt Gillett was named man of the match. – Jesse Mullens
Photo of Queensland captain Cameron Smith celebrating with his team from the NRL’s Facebook page.