The Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane was the setting for the eagerly anticipated opening game of the 2017 State of Origin Series.
This was the 109th State of Origin meeting between the two intense rivals. The Blues of New South Wales were the favourites going into the game, mainly due to the absence of a number of key players from the Queensland side, including the inspiration Johnathan Thurston for the first time in thirteen years.
The Blues were looking to overcome an abysmal record which has seen them win the series just once in the last eleven years, but history was on the side of Queensland who have won almost two thirds of all games played at Lang Park.
Queensland used the opening minutes to batter New South Wales but against the run of play it was the Blues who opened the scoring through James Maloney on six minutes. Breaking from the own goal line, after the Maroons had been refused a try by the video referee, Andrew Fifita put in an offload inside for Maloney to run twenty metres to score. The Blues half-back added the conversion.
The game was being played at breakneck speed but defences held firm, frustrating the attacks until the thirty-fourth minute. Cameron Smith break down the right before a Cooper Cronk high kick to the corner was plucked out of the air by Corey Oates who spun out of the attempted tackle and went the remaining two metres to dive over. What looked like a simple conversion for Cameron Smith was missed, and NSW held a two point lead.
Thirty seconds before the interval the Blues scored their second of the night when Mitchell Pearce took a fifth tackle pass after an earlier Andrew Fifita break to score under the sticks. Maloney added the extras to send his side into the sheds at 12-4, Queensland had suffered a body blow.
The lead was extended on fifty-one, after a blockbusting start to the second half. James Tedesco went from acting half back, stepped off his right foot and dragged four tacklers with him over the line to ground from five metres. Maloney squeezed his kick between the uprights and there was daylight between the sides at 18-4.
Three minutes later and Fifita picked up a Queensland ball, dropped on their own line by Justin O'Neil, to walk in for a simple try. Maloney made it four from four with the boot and the Blues were starting to enjoy themselves.
On the hour it was turning into a procession when Jarryd Hayne took a pass from Wade Graham on the Queensland twenty to go down the wing and ground in the corner. Maloney couldn't add the extras but the Blues were 28-4 ahead.
NSW were putting everything into stopping Queensland from scoring and on three occasions superb defence denied them four-pointers.
The last ten minutes was punctuated by several visits from the trainers to attend to injuries on both sides and neither team could breach their opponents line, enabling the Blues to seal a twenty-four point win.
Laurie Daley's troops did him proud and built on a sensational defensive effort to score some scintillating tries and secure a massive victory. It was a great team performance and the Maroons simply couldn't get any type of foothold in the game. Tries either side of half time sealed the win and knocked the stuffing out of Queensland.
New South Wales are one up in the series and head to the ANZ Stadium in Sydney in three weeks time with a chance of securing the series win for the first time since 2014.
New South Wales:
Tedesco (T), Morris, Dugan, Hayne (T), Ferguson, Maloney (T, 4G), Pearce (T), Woods, Peats, Fifita (T), Cordoner, Jackson, Frizell. Subs: Klemmer, Graham, Trbojevic, Bird.
Boyd, Oates (T), Chamber, O'Neill, Gagai, Milford, Cronk, Napa, Smith, Myles, Papalii, Gillett, McGuire. Subs: Morgan, Thaiday, Guerra, Lillyman.
Matt Cecchin and Gerard Sutton.