The Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues will have to dig deep to win the Ampol State of Origin series and defend the Shield they have held for the past two years after dropping the opening game 18-14 at Adelaide Oval last night.
The Blues got off to a dream start in the opening 40 minutes after taking a 10-0 lead into the break but they struggled to contain Queensland in the second half who fought their way back with three unanswered tries.
NSW proved last year they can come from a game down to claim the series after losing the opening game in Queensland before going on to win in Perth and Sydney but this year will be much harder with the remaining games in Sydney and Brisbane.
Blues skipper Boyd Cordner tried his heart out after running for 125 metres in a performance that was even more impressive when you consider he lost 15 minutes after being forced from the field for a head injury assessment (HIA).
Fullback James Tedesco was also strong after running for 299 metres while winger Josh Addo-Carr continued his strong form for the season after grabbing a double, including one in the final few minutes to give the Blues some hope of snatching an unlikely victory.
Unfortunately for the Blues, they came up with too many defensive lapses in the second half which allowed Queensland back into the game and they were also guilty of not playing with patience when they fell behind on the scoreboard.
The Blues got off to a shaky start after Damien Cook spilled the ball from the kick-off but the defence held firm and repelled anything Queensland tossed at them.
The Maroons then put themselves under pressure after conceding a penalty and it looked like NSW had made them pay when Addo-Carr dived over in the corner but replays showed the defence had arrive in the nick of time to bundle him over the touch line.
The end-to-end action continued when Dane Gagai slipped a pass for Xavier Coates to sprint down the touch line before kicking a ball back infield but Cook was on hand to scoop up the loose ball and defuse the dangerous situation.
Queensland had the first opportunity to break the deadlock after NSW gave away a penalty but Daly Cherry-Evans pushed the relatively simple chance wide to let the Blues off the hook.
The Maroons kept applying the pressure with set after set in one of the most telling moments of the first half but the Blues defence was tough and managed to absorb the pressure.
Clint Gutherson then turned defence into attack when he picked up a kick and set sail upfield and Jake Trbojevic backed that up with another powerful surge to have NSW well and truly on the front foot.
Cook then reaped the spoils when he put a grubber kick through that rebounded off the Maroons goal line defence for him to regather and muscle his way past Cherry-Evans to score the opening try of the match. Nathan Cleary added the extras to put NSW up 6-0.
NSW lost Cordner after he copped an accidental elbow from Felise Kaufusi while a tackle and he was forced from the field to undergo a HIA but despite the setback, the Blues continued to make inroads into the Queensland defence.
It wasn’t long before some slick hands across the backline saw Josh Addo-Carr dive over in the corner. Cleary couldn’t land the conversion but the Blues looked in control at 10-0.
The Blues suffered another injury setback after Cameron Murray was bent back awkwardly in a tackle before he was assisted from the field with a suspected hamstring injury.
The setback was tempered by the return of Cordner to the field and the Blues had one more chance to score just before the break when Wighton slipped a pass away for Tupou but again the Maroons defence was there to bundle him into touch and leave the score at 10-0.
The Maroons came out with more intent in the second half and opened their account when Kurt Capewell broke through the defence and kicked ahead for AJ Brimson to get a saloon bounce to score and reduce the margin to 10-6.
Queensland then took the lead when Gagai broke through the defence and got a pass away for Coates to streak down the sideline and score in the corner. Cherry-Evans added the extras to put the Maroons in front 12-10.
Tupou then looked to push a pass in traffic which unfortunately went to ground and was picked up by Cameron Munster who raced away to score. Cherry-Evans again landed the conversion from out wide to put the Maroons on top 18-10.
The injection of Cody Walker into the match provided the Blues with another attacking spark and a rare attacking opportunity quickly turned into points when he combined with Cleary, Luke Keary and Gutherson to put Addo-Carr over for his second try of the night.
Cleary was unable to land the conversion from the sideline to leave the scores at 18-14. The Blues got another opportunity after Kaufusi was sin binned for a professional foul but unfortunately time defeated them.