Sport Rugby League Tenacious Maroons outlast NSW 18-14 in thrilling State of Origin I

Tenacious Maroons outlast NSW 18-14 in thrilling State of Origin I

Maroons winger Dane Gagai attempts to break away from the NSW defence on Wednesday night. Photo: Getty
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A massive lapse in judgement from the usually sublime New South Wales back Latrell Mitchell was the catalyst for Queensland’s thrilling, come-from behind win in the State of Origin opener.

In a match that wasn’t truly decided until the last minute, Queensland overcame poor finishing and a valiant NSW defensive effort to win 18-14 at a packed Suncorp Stadium.

In a tale of two halves, NSW kept the Maroons scoreless in the first stanza, but failed to withstand an outstanding second-half performance in which the Maroons provided an 18-point turnaround.

Unfortunately a brain-snap from the mercurial Mitchell early in the second half saw him sin-binned for a professional foul on Maroons forward Matt Gillett as they competed for a loose ball on the Queensland try line.

Kalyn Ponga levelled the scores with the resulting penalty and Queensland made the most of the man advantage to wrestle control of the second stage of the match.

The Blues, who were fielding five debutants, started the match well and took the lead moments after a James Tedesco line break led to a penalty, which was converted by Nathan Cleary in the 13th minute.

The Maroons almost hit back immediately with a length-of-the-field try, but winger Corey Oates was correctly judged to have stepped on the sideline before diving spectacularly to plant the ball.

Moments after Cameron Munster escaped an in-goal blunder, veteran centre Josh Morris made the most of Tedesco creating an overlap – due to the Melbourne Storm playmaker’s missed tackle – to score the game’s first try.

Cleary added the extras to extend NSW’s lead to 8-0.

Little went right for the Maroons in the first 30 minutes and NSW piled on the pressure in the first as Tedesco and Damien Cook ran riot.

Their luck looked to be changing when a grubber kick by captain Daly Cherry Evans bounced off the post and was dived on by Dylan Napa, but the video review ruled the ball was not properly grounded.

Within two minutes a brilliant Munster break set up Will Chambers for a sprint to the try line, but desperate Blues defence from Tedesco and Josh Addo-Carr resulted in a Chambers forward pass when he tried to offload.

NSW’s James Tedesco, foiled by Matt Gillett, was a constant threat in attack. Photo: Getty

Going to the break, Queensland had more first-half opportunities to lament but failed to capitalise in a breathtaking match played at a fast and furious pace.

Within 14 minutes of the restart Oates redeemed himself by again diving in to the corner to finish off a slick backline move highlighted by a Kalyn Ponga wraparound.

Ponga’s sideline conversion scraped the post before landing inside to bring the deficit back to two.

The success in breaching the Blues line inspired the Maroons to greater heights as the vociferous home crowd of 52,191 rallied their troops.

Initially, the bad luck continued when Michael Morgan was ruled to have been held up over the line, and a penalty try appeal was denied.

But the sin-binning of Mitchell for 10 minutes and Ponga’s penalty proved the turning point.

An intercept try by Dane Gagai five metres from his own line in the 67th minute gave the Maroons the lead for the first time, despite the best efforts of Blues speedster Addo-Carr.

Ponga’s sideline conversion miss kept alive the Blues hopes at 12-8 with little more than 11 minutes remaining.

But within two minutes Gagai scored again in the corner – his 11th Origin try in 11 matches – after a superb Ponga cutout pass to seemingly wrap up the match.

Ponga coolly added the extras from the sideline to stretch the lead to 18-8.

But the unpredictable nature of Origin surfaced when Jake Trbojevic scored under the the posts almost immediately. A quickly taken Cleary conversion brought back the margin to four points at 18-14.

But the home side hung on for a come-from-behind victory, despite a late Mitchell scare.

Speaking after the final whistle, Ponga said the crowd made Origin special.

“The first 10 minutes I couldn’t hear anyone but the crowd,” Ponga said.

“It [the game] is faster. No room for error. But I’m playing outstanding players. Love being around them.”

Queensland will head to Game 2 in Perth on June 23 with confidence high, with history showing the winner of Game 1 has won 27 of the past 37 series.