Queensland fended off a late New South Wales comeback to claim a 18-10 victory in the opening game of the 2023 Ampol Women's State of Origin Series on Thursday night.
The four tries to two victory means the Maroons head into the second and final game of the series later this month in Townsville knowing that under the points aggregate system being used this year, anything other than a loss by eight points or more will be enough to take control of the shield, which NSW won in 2022.
On the back of the brilliance of fullback Tamika Upton and a double to Broncos winger Julia Robinson, Queensland got out to a 18-6 lead with half an hour remaining at CommBank Stadium, before the Sky Blues wrestled momentum back and threatened to overcome their rivals late on.
Upton and Robinson combine
But the Maroons held their nerve, surviving prolonged periods camped on their own line in the final quarter to claim victory in front of a record crowd of 12,972.
The Sky Blues battled on bravely despite losing captain Isabelle Kelly late in the first half to a throat injury which saw her hospitalised. Pre-match they also lost winger Tiana Penitani to a hamstring problem, which triggered a backline reshuffle.
After knocking the ball on in the opening set – and losing their captain's challenge in the process of trying to overturn it – the Maroons starved their opponents of the ball from the 4th to 14th minute, completing seven straight sets and scoring the opening try.
A cutout pass from Upton sent Robinson over in the right corner, but just nine minutes later New South Wales replied via Jess Sergis, who came in field looking for work and barged her way over.
Teenage half Jesse Southwell converted for her first points as an Origin player to give her side the lead.
But on the stroke of half-time the Sky Blues suffered a double blow, losing Kelly as she attempted a tackle in the lead up to Tazmin Gray scoring a try which gave the Maroons a half-time lead.
Gray powers over
Tries to Bass, following a long-range intercept from Shenae Ciesiolka, and Robinson's second – both inside the opening 10 minutes of the second half – stretched the lead to 12, but Jaime Chapman quickly hit back to set up an exciting finish.
Match: Sky Blues v Maroons
Game 1 -
Venue: CommBank Stadium, Sydney
- A crowd of 12,972 gathered to watch the series opener at CommBank Stadium, which is a new record for a women's Origin match.
- New South Wales captain Isabelle Kelly was taken to hospital as a precaution after suffering a throat injury just before half-time, which ended her game.
Kelly leaves the field
- Maroons forward Keilee Joseph underwent a HIA which she passed in the second half. Sarah Togatuki was placed on report for the tackle which led to it.
- The match had 30 errors in total, with each side making 15.
- On a busy night, Julia Robinson had six tackle breaks and 137 run metres to go with her try-scoring double.
The Maroons are on a roll
- Queensland lost their captain's challenge on the opening set when they tried unsuccessfully to overturn a Shannon Mato knock on.
- Through the first half Queensland enjoyed 60 percent possession and made 48 fewer tackles than New South Wales.
Play of the Game
While she got run down by a brilliant Jaime Chapman chase and tackle, this intercept and 65-metre dash from Shenae Ciesiolka set up the Queensland's all-important third try. It was a great display of athleticism from both Ciesiolka and Chapman
The race is on
What They Said
"I think we had some really, really good moments... but it was only in patches, and we need to be more consistent. I honestly don't think we could play as bad as we did tonight [in Game Two]." – New South Wales coach Kylie Hilder.
Sky Blues: Game 1
"The girls were outstanding tonight. Just the effort, we saw the boys do it last night and I think the girls got a bit of a lift from that. They came out tonight and just put in effort upon effort and held New South Wales out late in that game." – Queensland coach Tahnee Norris.
Maroons: Game 1
The series heads to Queensland Country Bank Stadium in Townsville for the second and final game on June 22, with New South Wales requiring a victory by at least nine points in order to defend their title (if they win by eight the tiebreaker process outlined here will be used). The Sky Blues will be sweating on the fitness of skipper Isabelle Kelly (throat) as well as wing Tiana Penitani (hamstring).