Almanac Rugby League – State of Origin, Game 1: Hammer blow to NSW’s hopes



The scoreboard doesn’t always tell the story. Case in point: Queensland 38 d NSW 10. On the run of play and for effort expended, it should have been something more like 26-14. But the Maroons certainly did deserve their victory with a full team effort against a NSW side reduced to 12 players for 73 minutes. When they dominated for 20 minutes early in the second half, the Blues couldn’t find the last play to exert enough scoreboard pressure. Meanwhile, Queensland defended more than capably in that period and then took their chances with several breathtaking long-range tries to kill the game in the last 15 minutes.


NSW deserve great credit for an immense effort after Suaali’i was sent off (correctly) for an ugly tackle on Walsh. It was more a case of misjudgement than malice but it was a hit to the head with the leading shoulder. It left the officials with no option but a dismissal. That messed everything up for the Blues for the next 20 minutes and a 14-point deficit was always a bridge too far playing a man down. NSW then dominated the first 25 minutes of the second half but couldn’t find a scoring play against strong, disciplined goal-line defence. It’s easy to say when your team has just won, but NSW can take a lot of positives out of the game based around those 25 minutes. There is no need for mass sackings.


Zac Lomax looked the goods in his Origin debut, as did Leniu. Robson and Martin were full on, taking on the Maroons strongly in both attack and defence. Tedesco, as always, tried everything but his running game is not what it was and the defence covered him well. He’s a champion of broken play but the attack isn’t there any more. Luai ran sideways too much and his fancy footwork counted for little because it wrecked any chance of sustained, structured attack. Stephen Crichton looked dangerous with the ball in hand and was powerful in defence. Hynes tried hard but was heavily outpointed by his direct opponent, the evergreen DCE.


The winners were strong from 1 through to 18 (after Kaufusi became the first 18th man to come on to the field after Walsh was forced off). The forward pack at least matched, and probably shaded, the Blues’ forwards. Carrigan is a world class player, Hunt is a big game specialist, Cotter is a dynamo and Su’a had a great first half. Nanai kept the defence honest with probing runs on the right. Fotuaiki ran powerfully when he came on through the middle of the game while Collins had a good stint when he came back on in the second half. In his short stint, Kaufusi hit like a sledge hammer.


But it was the Queensland backline that, as predicted by many, smashed the game. Cherry-Evans gets better with age. He ran the ball more than he usually does, and both passed and kicked cleverly. Dearden reprised his cameo of a couple of years ago – what a terrier. Holmes was slick and Cobbo did Billy Slater proud with composed defence and strong running. Coates had his best Origin game to date as he made many hard yards from deep in defence and Taulagi provided grunt in a solid performance.


But the star was The Hammer. Courageous and almost error-free under the high ball, he chimed into the line with great vision and timing to literally run away with three tries. He moves so beautifully – effortlessly, gracefully and with a sense of joy. He was very unlucky not to get Man of the Match honours.


Which brings us back to DCE – 35 years young, a great reader of the game, skills in both his hands and his feet, a leader par excellence, and an articulate speaker to boot. Over the years he has battled to win over the Queensland faithful but, surely, there can be no doubt that he deserves to be ranked alongside the best of the best Maroons of the Origin era after his efforts over the past few years. Big call? Maybe, but I think time will allow us to measure his contributions more objectively.


Votes: 3 – The Hammer, 2 – DCE, 3. Robson. (With apologies to Carrigan, Cobbo and Dearden)


A couple of questions which might be explained in the cooler light of the coming days: Why was Jurbo off the field for so long? Why was McInnes in the run-on side while Yeo languished on the bench? Was the NSW bench used to best effect? No Munster, no Queensland? – not while Tom Dearden is around!


I thought the officials, both on the field and in the Bunker, had good games. I can’t remember anything contentious that either side might point to as significant.


Now it’s on to the MCG on June 26 for Game 2.


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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A loyal Queenslander, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. Enjoys travel, coffee and cake, reading, and has been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. One of Footy Almanac's online editors who enjoys the occasional editing opportunity to assist aspiring writers.


  1. John Harms says

    I agree with your thoughts on Dearden.

    And that it was an even performance across the park.

    I think Hunt-Grant-DCE-Dearden gave them options.

    Will be interested to hear the analysis of the performance of the two coaches today.

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