It's easy for some fans to blame Jack Wighton after his intercept pass to Dane Gagai in Game One but halfback Nathan Cleary has thrown his support behind the debutant and praised his courage at a crucial stage of the game.
Wighton looked to have created a golden opportunity on the left-edge when he beat Will Chambers on the outside before his final pass was snatched by Gagai who raced 95m to score.
It proved to be a match-defining play but Cleary has lauded Wighton’s intentions to spark his side and believes the debutant should be proud of his maiden Origin performance.
“I thought Jack (Wighton) came up with a really big play to beat (Will) Chambers and it was just one of those moments where ‘Foxx’ could have scored in the corner but Gagai came up with a pretty big Origin play so we just got to deal with that.,” Cleary told nswrl.com.au.
“I thought Jack was really good when he came on and brought a lot of energy.
"We just have to address what went wrong tonight (in other areas) and move on from that.”
While the Blues looked dominant in the first half with an 8-0 lead at the break, three unanswered tries from the Maroons, including two to Gagai, ensured a customary Maroons comeback.
Cleary admits there were parts of the game where NSW should have capitalised on their opportunities, however, he believes the major improvement for the team moving forward is to trust each other in defence.
“I thought we were good in areas but we probably let ourselves down in the second-half and probably a lack of trust sometimes in defence,” he said.
“That allowed to get them back into the game and you probably can’t do that in an Origin game.”
While Cleary left no stone unturned in his fourth Origin appearance, the halfback admits he needed to take more ownership in the latter stages of the contest.
He knows first and foremost where he needs to improve, and has enough self-belief that suggests he will be primed for a stronger showing in Game Two in Perth.
“I think there’s a lot of room for improvement. There’s probably areas in my game where I probably could have been more dominant and put my foot forward,” he said.
“I felt that and hopefully, I’ll be better for the future now."