Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler said his side failed to win the ruck in a high-paced Game One of the 2022 Ampol State of Origin series, where Queensland enjoyed a narrow 16-10 win at Sydney’s Accor Stadium.
The Maroons hadn’t won in Sydney for five years - Game Two of the 2017 series – but under new coach and former Queensland fullback Billy Slater.
The game came right down to the wire as NSW searched for the equalising try after South Sydney skipper Cameron Murray scored with nine minutes left on the clock.
But Queensland’s scrambling defence was central to their three tries-to-two win, as was five-eighth Cameron Munster.
“They did a great job, worked hard there, and definitely won the ruck,” Fittler said.
“We should have done a better job and held them down longer.”
Asked whether the absence of injured centres Tom Trbojevic and Latrell Mitchell – who scored eight tries of NSW’s 15 in the winning 2021 series - hurt NSW chances this year, Fittler said: “It could have been – they’re good players.
“Everyone likes to have their stars and when they’re in form they create opportunities.
“At the end of the day it would have been hard to be a centre today with the pace of our play-the-balls.”
Fittler said the Blues would now regroup and move onto Perth’s Optus Stadium for Game Two on 26 June.
“We work hard… work hard and make it a real focus,” he said.
Captain James Tedesco said Queensland created opportunities and scored off them whereas the Blues didn’t follow that example enough.
“I felt like we came out of our end pretty well but like Freddy said we were sort of going one out to try and create a play and weren’t pushing for each other on that play to create that quick ruck,” he said.
“We were playing freely that last 10 to 20 minutes and creating opportunities – we just didn’t execute off the back of that.”
The match opened with a furious exchange of tackles – the first had Isaah Yeo knocked off his feet by Josh Papalii while Payne Haas rolled over the top of Cameron Munster.
But then the Brydens Lawyers Blues settled into some slick ball movement.
A crisp Damien Cook pass to halfback Nathan Cleary, then through his halves partner Jarome Luai, ended up in Jack Wighton’s hands at left centre. The Raiders playmaker saw the try-line and went for it, dragging Dane Gagai and Selwyn Cobbo with him.
It took Queensland 20 minutes to reply with Gagai crossing in the 35th minute off a neat Cobbo inside kick, giving the Maroons the lead (6-4) for the first time in the match.
NSW rued two missed chances to get the lead back before halftime – a Daniel Tupou pass to James Tedesco was ruled forward, and a try to Junior Paulo was denied by the Bunker for an obstruction by Cameron Murray on Patrick Carrigan.
In the second half, Queensland had to reshuffle the troops as Jeremiah Nanai joined Xavier Coates in the casualty ward – both with ankle injuries.
But the Maroons were next to score points with two tries through skipper Daly Cherry-Evans running freely off the back of a scrum, and Valentine Holmes off a Kalyn Ponga cut-out pass.
NSW was not without its own injury concerns when centre Kotoni Staggs (shoulder) had to be replaced by Stephen Crichton – one of three Blues on debut tonight.
The Murray try gave the Blues hope with captain and fullback James Tedesco, and hooker Damien Cook causing all sorts of problems around the ruck.
Tedesco was again among NSW’s best making 261 metres off 21 runs, with a line-break and eight tackle busts.
The most runs went to winger Daniel Tupou with 26 for 206 metres and four tackle busts. His wing partner Brian To’o was equally as incisive with 25 runs and 205 metres, along with eight tackle busts.
Among the NSW forwards, Haas was at his destructive best with 143 metres – 70 of those post-contact – while Yeo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard both ran over 100 metres.