Maroons bag game one


SYDNEY: Melbourne Storm playmaker Cameron Munster stole the show as Queensland spoiled New South Wales’ (NSW) return to Accor Stadium, upsetting the Blues 16-10 in game one last night.
In front of 80,512 fans at Sydney’s Olympic Park, the Maroons, led by Munster, Daly Cherry-Evans and debutant Patrick Carrigan, dominated on their own terms with thrilling plays throughout the contest to help Queensland to a special win.
The Blues enjoyed the field possession early to take a 4-0 lead but the injection of Carrigan in the 15th minute swung the momentum Queensland’s way and from there the visitors came up with the big plays as NSW struggled to click in attack until late.
Carrigan upstaged Broncos teammate Payne Haas and the remainder of his Blues teammates and brought Munster and Cherry-Evans, who scored a decisive try in the second half, into the game.
Munster ignited the contest in the second half as the Maroons took a 6-4 lead into half-time with a piece of individual brilliance, where he fended off four defenders mid-field before breaking the line to spark the Maroons in enemy territory.
He then produced a special one-on-one strip on Stephen Crichton with minutes remaining to ensure the Maroons secured the result, their first under new coach Billy Slater. A game-ending leg injury to Xavier Coates had the Maroons on the back foot for the second half but the visitors rallied in defence as NSW began to charge home in the final quarter of the game.
Blues coach Brad Fittler sprung a double change to the line-up with Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Liam Martin promoted to start, shifting Blues regulars Cameron Murray and Junior Paulo to the bench.
Both sides endured shaky starts with six errors inside the opening 20 minutes with Queensland (four) struggling to hold the ball in greasy conditions.
NSW centre Jack Wighton brushed off any murmurs of a late switch with Stephen Crichton to open the scoring in the 14th minute as the Blues took a 4-0 lead.
Maroons winger Xavier Coates left the field in the 27th minute with a leg injury but the visitors managed to jag a sneaky try on their right edge via Dane Gagai, who crossed for his 12th Origin try via a Selwyn Cobbo kick.
Players will return to their NRL clubs for the next two weeks before Origin sides for Game Two are selected.
Both sides will turn their attention to Perth’s Optus Stadium, where the Blues last beat the Maroons in 2019.
Maroons debutant and in-form Cowboys forward Jeremiah Nanai was next to leave the field after his ankle was caught awkwardly under the weight of teammate Cobbo but he returned later in the contest.
Kotoni Staggs (shoulder) was replaced by Stephen Crichton on the right edge in the 53rd minute.
Cameron Munster. His one-on-one stripping ability on Stephen Crichton under pressure late relieved the Maroons late before he popped up late to repel a Jack Wighton raid.
Maroons centre-turned winger Valentine Holmes then pulled off a scintillating defensive play late to deny the Blues a leveller.
“It was one of the hardest games I’ve ever played. That’s the best thing about Origin, just how hard the game is. Patrick Carrigan changed the game when he came on and it gave us space to move,” said Maroons five-eighth Cameron Munster.