The Kevin Walters era began as Mal Meninga’s ended – with victory, as the new Queensland mentor led the Maroons to a 6-4 win over NSW in his first State of Origin match as coach at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday night.
The visitors took a 6-4 lead into halftime after back-rower Boyd Cordner scored for the Blues and the Maroons replied just before the break through Dane Gagai.
A 15th minute Johnathan Thurston penalty goal was the difference between the sides.
In a dour second half that was the way things stayed as NSW couldn’t capitalise on their opportunities to score before 80,251 fans.
The bunker’s first foray into Origin wasn’t without controversy as review official Bernard Sutton turned down a 66th minute try to NSW centre Josh Morris that had been refereed to him from the onfield officials as a try.
Not long after a NSW scrum feed 10m out from the Queensland tryline was handed to the Maroons after Justin O’Neill was ruled not to have knocked on.
Queensland dominated proceedings early and opened the scoring through Thurston’s penalty.
The Blues gained the ascendancy from then on and put the first try on the board when James Maloney fed Cordner who crashed over out wide in the 26th minute for the Blues to lead.
After a relatively uneventful first half Queensland went to the break with a two-point lead after Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston combined on the short side on the Maroons right edge to put Dane Gagai over.
Michael Morgan suffered concussion for the Maroons in the 50th minute in a David Klemmer tackle and didn’t return. But that didn’t hinder the Maroons as they enjoyed a seamless transition from Meninga to Walters.
Controversy will continue to surround the inclusion of Dylan Walker on the NSW bench after he played just the final nine minutes of the game.
James Maloney and Matt Moylan were among the Blues’ best, while Darius Boyd led the way for Queensland.
Cooper Cronk showed no ill-effects from the ankle injury that hindered him in the lead-up to the game.