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Maroons stunned in Origin opener

By QRL Media and NRL.com

Dane Gagai Game I

New South Wales put in a dominant performance to down the Maroons in the opening match of the 2017 Holden State of Origin series.

Queensland were heavy underdogs going into the match, having lost the collective experience of players including talismanic half Johnathan Thurston, forward leader Matt Scott and Origin’s leading try scorer Greg Inglis.

Skipper Cameron Smith told Channel 9 that it was “very disappointing” to have lost in that manner at home.

“It was very disappointing – the Blues played with a lot of enthusiasm … you can’t afford to give up cheap points like that,” he said.

“We didn’t have enough energy … but no excuses – they were very good.

“It’s back to the drawing board – two to go.

“We travel to Sydney – and it’s a must win.”

In a close start to the game, the two teams put on almost the perfect half of football to open the game.

Queensland started brightly and the Bunker was called in to review a possible try to winger Corey Oates in the fifth minute, but the Blues began to assert their dominance on the back of a devastating opening spell from front rowers Andrew Fifita and Aaron Woods.

The ability of Woods to continually promote the ball despite the attention of two and three defenders forced the Queensland forwards into extra efforts that began to take a significant toll after just 16 minutes.

Fifita's one-handed offload under the attempts at tackle from Matt Gillett and Dylan Napa in the seventh minute gave James Maloney a one-on-one with Darius Boyd that ended with the Blues five-eighth scoring under the posts for a 6-0 lead and it wasn't until Fifita returned after an HIA assessment late in the half that the Blues scored again.

Just as some Jarryd Hayne brilliance looked to have set up a second try-scoring opportunity for NSW, Queensland climbed off the canvas to land a blow of their own, a Cooper Cronk cross-field kick plucked out of the Brisbane sky by a soaring Oates to reduce the deficit to just two points.

Such a scoreline at half-time would have given the Maroons a massive lift mentally, but a bust by Fifita inside the final minute put the Blues back on the attack, Wade Graham's inside pass to James Tedesco leading to a try to Pearce under the posts 33 seconds from the break.

NSW picked up from where they left off to start the second half with Tedesco's effort to push through three Queensland players from a dummy-half dart opening up an 18-4 advantage that the Maroons never threatened to challenge.

Three minutes after Tedesco's try, the Blues were handed a gift-wrapped six points from Queensland centre Justin O'Neill, whose simple knock-on a metre out from his own try-line allowed Fifita to top off his most dominant Origin display with a try left of the posts and a 24-4 lead.

The Blues added to their score when they attacked down the left edge in the 60th minute and a Graham pass put Hayne into so much space that he didn't stop until he got to the large bay of Blues fans, recreating the pose that he struck when he last played for his state in Game III, 2014.

In a heavily beaten team - the efforts of Dane Gagai and Cooper Cronk were notable, with Cronk taking on a increased workload when debutant Anthony Milford could not return to the game after a head knock. 

The task for Queensland now is to regroup for the important game in Sydney on June 21.

See the full scoring details and final team line-up at QRL Live

NSW 28 (James Maloney, Mitchell Pearce, James Tedesco, Andrew Fifita, Jarryd Hayne tries; James Maloney 4 goals) def Queensland 4 (Corey Oates try) at Suncorp Stadium
Halftime: 12-4 (NSW)
Crowd: 50, 390
Man of the Match: Andrew Fifita (NSW)

*Much of this report first appeared on NRL.com