NSW have launched their State of Origin title defence in impressive fashion, grabbing a 10-6 game one halftime lead over Queensland in Sydney on Wednesday night.
A remarkable 60m try completed by flying centre Josh Morris set up the halftime buffer in front of a packed ANZ Stadium.
NSW’s young guns eventually fired, desperate to show that snapping Queensland’s record eight straight series streak last year was no fluke.
But it was the veteran Maroons who had all the early running.
Queensland thought they had capitalised on a Daniel Tupou turnover and drawn first blood through Billy Slater off a Johnathan Thurston grubber in the eighth minute, only to be denied by the video referee due to the dubious grounding.
But the Maroons were not to be denied, with halfback Cooper Cronk running off Cameron Smith and slicing through centre Michael Jennings to score a soft try five minutes later.
NSW’s response was stunning.
Josh Dugan ran off a superb James Tamou offload and kicked ahead before Morris capped the remarkable effort by crashing over in the 20th minute.
Maroons fullback Billy Slater appeared fortunate to escape punishment for what looked like a shoulder charge on Dugan late after his kick.
“What are you going to do about that?” NSW skipper Robbie Farah asked the officials after replays of Slater’s hit on Dugan appeared on the big screen.
NSW led 10-6 after they made Queensland pay for a Justin Hodges turnover when Mitchell Pearce set up Beau Scott’s maiden Origin try in the 26th minute.
NSW will hope history repeats if they draw first blood in the series.
Since the introduction of a three game series in 1982, the team that has won Origin I has gone on to win the series on 24 occasions from 33 series – including five of the past six series.
NSW coach Laurie Daley finally found the winning formula against Queensland last year but still rolled the dice, making six changes to his game three team from last year.
And it’s so far so good for Daley, with contentious pick Sydney Roosters No.7 Pearce impressing in the first half out of position at pivot, proving a constant threat with the boot.
And Dugan has stepped up to fill the boots of NFL hopeful Jarryd Hayne at fullback.
Queensland’s veterans have played over 160 more games than NSW and they looked every inch a veteran side by halftime.