New South Wales is one win away from breaking Queensland’s vice grip on the State of Origin trophy after a 14-6 victory in game one in Sydney on Wednesday night.
The Blues were by far the better side in the first half, racking up 14 unanswered points as the Maroons repeatedly squandered their chances and looked lost in the middle in front of a record Olympic stadium Origin crowd of 80,380.
The powerful New South Wales pack was enthusiastic in comparison and the home side’s debutants James Maloney, Andrew Fifita and Blake Ferguson all looked perfectly comfortable with their first tastes of Origin football.
Maloney converted both Blues tries, slotted a penalty goal and had an all-around strong kicking game as he guided the hosts around the field with Roosters halves partner Mitchell Pearce.
Full-back Jarryd Hayne scored the opening four-pointer off a brilliant set play after just five minutes, and centre Michael Jennings stretched New South Wales’s lead three minutes before the break.
The Maroons were spurred on after the restart by Darius Boyd’s try on the left edge that was set up with a pass from Greg Inglis, who had an uncharacteristically quiet night out.
But any time Queensland looked threatening after it finally got on the board, the visitors undid their good work with mistakes and penalties.
Maroons half-back Cooper Cronk knew what his side did poorly but was optimistic going ahead.
“It wasn’t a great performance but this series is obviously three games long,” he told Grandstand.
“I daresay [defensive coach] Trevor Gillmeister might have a big impact on game two, our defence wasn’t great.
“It’s a tough brand of football and Origin tests your character.
“There’ll be some sad boys in those sheds but we’ve got some work to do and we’re looking forward to Game Two.”
While Queensland did not do it so well, New South Wales’s stopping power was superb.
“We wanted to base our win on defence, that was what we really really tried around the ruck,” Blues lock Greg Bird told Grandstand.
“They’ve been so dominant, their forwards, and our boys really got up and worked hard around the ruck.”
Blues veteran Luke Lewis was handed man-of-the-match honours, and deservedly so, for a workhorse performance in the dominant New South Wales pack.
Blues skipper Paul Gallen may miss two weeks for punching Queensland forward Nate Myles in the face, but the ban can be reduced to one round with an early guilty plea.
The Maroons have a chance to level the series at one game apiece at Lang Park on June 26.
New South Wales: 14 (J Hayne, M Jennings tries; J Maloney 2/2 conversions; 1/2 penalty goals)
Queensland: 6 (D Boyd try; C Smith 1/1 conversions)