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Brave Blues finally succumb to Maroons

The Westpac NSW Blues put up a courageous fight after being reduced to 12 men early through a Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii send-off, but were overrun by Queensland 38-10 in Game One of the Ampol State of Origin series at Sydney’s Accor Stadium.

Suaalii was ruled by referee Ashley Klein to have made dangerous contact to the head of Maroons fullback Reece Walsh in the seventh minute.

Queensland were too experienced not to take advantage with stand-in fullback Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow scoring a hat-trick. 

Following the send-off NSW had to reshuffle their backline with Stephen Crichton moving from left centre to right and Angus Crichton shifting from the back row to left centre.

“It wasn’t ideal … not too much went to plan but there was a period there where the boys showed a lot of fight. So we’ll take something from that,” NSW captain Jake Trbojevic told Channel Nine.

“We came out after halftime and we were on top there for 20 minutes, so it was a shame the way things went tonight.

“It’s disappointing to lose at home but we’ll have to come back bigger and better next game.”

NSW were down 20-6 at halftime after the dramatic opening 40 minutes.

Queensland scored three first-half tries – two after the Suaalii send-off - when the visitors exploited the overlap against NSW’s right edge.

Tabuai-Fidow collected a double after hooker Ben Hunt opened the Maroons' scoring in just the fourth minute, accepting a pass back inside from Daly Cherry-Evans scooting down the short side.

Six minutes after Suaalii’s exit the Blues got themselves on the scoreboard, when five-eighth Jarome Luai slid sideways before putting in a deft grubber for James Tedesco to collect and ground.

Interchange forward Spencer Leniu was held up over the line in the 29th minute as NSW tried to find a way through after receiving several six-again calls.

NSW camped themselves in Queensland’s territory for the final 10 minutes of the half, and off the back of a 95% completion rate they had all the momentum heading to the sheds.

The Blues had the best possible start to the second half, going 80 metres upfield and forcing a repeat set from the opening six tackles, before Angus Crichton had a one-on-one steal to keep possession with NSW.

The search for points was rewarded in the 43rd minute, when a Nicho Hynes corner kick had debutant Zac Lomax out-leaping Selwyn Cobbo to score NSW’s second try (20-10).

After two Maroons tries were over-ruled by the bunker, the NSW wall finally cracked in the 66th minute when Hunt finished off a long-range move for his second.

Queensland’s fifth try underlined that it just wasn’t NSW’s night.

Stephen Crichton went within a metre of the try-line, but then an Isaah Yeo pass was intercepted by Cherry-Evans who kicked ahead for winger Xavier Coates to score. 

Tabuai-Fidow’s third in the 78th minute put the result beyond doubt.

Some of NSW's hardest workers were in the forwards with hooker Reece Robson racking up 50 tackles, Payne Haas 42, Cam McInnes 41 and Liam Martin 37.

Angus Crichton had 22 runs for 168 metres, while Leniu made 108 metres and nine tackle-breaks. Most run metres went to wingers Brian To'o (223) and Lomax (212) with fullback James Tedesco have 20 runs for 200 metres and busting out of five tackles.

Game Two in the 2024 series will be at the MCG in Melbourne on Wednesday 26 June.

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New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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