Match-winner Cooper Cronk has challenged NSW to lift for the second Origin bout at the MCG, declaring Queensland’s superior game management got them home in Sydney.
The Blues’ attack was disjointed in the final stages of the 11-10 loss to the Maroons in the series opener at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday night, while Queensland kept their shape under pressure.
NSW head to game two in Melbourne on June 17 under enormous pressure, thanks largely to halfback Cronk, who starred with a first-half try and a field goal six minutes from fulltime.
“One up in a three-game series going to Melbourne is pretty satisfying and puts the pressure back on them,” Cronk said.
“It’s about game management with under 10 minutes to go and I think we did a good job.”
Queensland have several experts in game management, including Cronk, Johnathan Thurston and Cameron Smith and it proved the difference, while their NSW counterparts Trent Hodkinson, Mitchell Pearce and Robbie Farah struggled steering the Blues around the park.
The Maroons, under the guidance of Cronk and Thurston, manoeuvred into a position to ice the game with Cronk dropping into the pocket and slotting the decisive point.
The Melbourne star’s field goal came a set after NSW ignored a couple of field goal opportunities, before messing up a third chance in the final minutes.
A poor pass from dummy-half Farah found its way to fullback Josh Dugan who missed with a wayward shot on the run.
“I think we managed the game a little bit better towards the back end of the half. We got over that advantage line and completed our sets,” Cronk said.
“It comes with experience. We’ve been there before, we know what it’s all about and you’ve just got to calm the nerves.”
Thurston admitted Queensland had spent part of their preparation on how to approach tight games at the death.
“We do a fair bit of preparation on it,” Thurston told AAP.
“But Coops (Cronk) has slotted those for us many times before, so when we get in that position, he’s one of the best at it.
“When the play goes down, I just try and hold a bit of shape on the left, but he always gets in a position for them.”
Thurston admitted he was surprised NSW turned down both opportunities to go for the go-ahead field goal.