Captain Cameron Smith hailed a stirring defensive effort from Queensland, as the Maroons claimed a controversial 6-4 win over NSW on Wednesday night in State of Origin I.
The Maroons claimed a dour two-point win under new coach Kevin Walters at ANZ Stadium before 80,251 fans after a scoreless second half but not before the home side copped several controversial refereeing calls.
Back-rower Boyd Cordner scored for the Blues in the 26th minute and the Maroons replied just before the break through Dane Gagai. A 15th-minute Johnathan Thurston penalty goal was the difference between the sides at halftime.
In a second half that was absorbing but low on memorable moments, that was the way things stayed as NSW couldn’t capitalise on numerous opportunities to score.
“We were outstanding – the boys really dug in deep,” Smith told the Nine Network after he became Origin’s most-capped player in his 37th match.
“That’s what we built our game on, our defence, and we were great tonight.”
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 was referred 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.
NSW continued to press the Queensland line after that but couldn’t find a way through.
Darius Boyd was Queensland’s best, while James Maloney and Matt Moylan led the way for the Blues.
Maroons halfback Cooper Cronk showed no ill effects of the ankle injury that hindered him in the lead-up to the game.
“It wasn’t the greatest spectacle but the Queensland spirit lives on,” Cronk told ABC radio’s Grandstand program.
“One hell of a defensive effort from our guys. It was a really grinding, gritty performance from us.”
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 Mal 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.
Game two is at Suncorp Stadium in three weeks, where NSW have won only one live Origin rubber.