Melbourne Cricket Ground was the venue for the opening fixture of the three game Holden State of Origin series as one of the seasons most awaited games pitched the Maroons of Queensland against the Blues of New South Wales.

This is the start of the thirty-seventh State of Origin series with Queensland well ahead on twenty-one series wins. With eleven wins in the last twelve series Queensland now found themselves as underdogs to secure the victory as they came into the series without the incredible backbone of players who have helped them to their domination, including the retirement of skipper Cameron Smith from representative rugby.

There was a great turnout in the ground, and plenty of support for both sides as audiences in both hemispheres settled down for a great match with Brad Fittler’s NSW hoping to deny Queensland their first win in Melbourne since 1995.

The game had the rough and tough opening that was expected but it was Queensland who were confounding the odds by having the best of the position and possession. As the Blues found their kicking game there was a noticible switch in dominance with repeated forced drop outs.

When a tiring Queensland held down in the tackle on sixteen, James Maloney kicked the penalty from twenty metres out to edge NSW into a to point advantage.

Five minutes later and the Blues opened the try scoring with a break from their own half which started with a Damian Cook breaking the line and finding James Maloney in support who in turn passed to James Tedesco and despite the full back being ankle tappedhe slid over the line to score. Maloney added the conversion and it was 8-0.

On twenty-seven Valentine Holmes scored a ninety metre intercept try after picking off a careless long no-look pass from James Maloney and racing under the sticks as the Blues defenders struggled to get within thirty metres of him. He added the extras himself and a little against the run of play the Maroons were back within two points.

A brilliant kick on thirty-three forced a NSW dropout as Tedesco was forced to carry the Will Chambers kick dead in goal but the defence held firm and kept their line intact.

It was a good first half of rugby with some ambitious attacking plays but ferocious defence but punctuated by some uncharacteristic mistakes from both sides as tiredness and nerves took their toll.

Queensland hit the front on forty-three when Dane Gagai touched down a pinpoint Ben Hunt kick through after outpacing the NSW chasers. Holmes converted beautifully from the touchline for a 12-8 lead.

The NSW struck back on forty-seven when Latrell Mitchell took a Tedesco pass and stretched for the line. Maloney was unable to add the extras and with thirty minutes left on the clock the arch-enemies were tied up at 12-12.

Three minutes later and the Blues were back in front as Tom Trbojevic took a Maloney high kick out of the hands of Holmes to drop over the line and ground. Maloney drilled the extras between the uprights for a six point advantage.

A determined Tedesco break put NSW in great position before the ball was moved right to left and ended in the hands of Josh Addo-Carr, off a long Maloney pass, to score a sensational try by the left corner flag. Maloney was unable to add the extras but at 22-12 the Blues were well and truly in the driving seat.

Mitchell had a try turned down on seventy-seven when Queensland did well to hold the ball up in their goal area but Queensland needed time down the other end rather than defending their own.

The Blues showed great character to initially take the lead, and then to fight back after going behind early in the second.  Queensland can also hold their heads up high for a decent performance and showed glimpses of what they might be able to achieve in the remaining two games. A good early win for NSW which sets them up for a tilt at the series and it sets up an exciting game two.

NSW: Tedesco (T), Trbojevic T (T), Mitchell (T), Roberts, Addo-Carr (T), Maloney (3G), Cleary, Klemmer, Cook, Campbell-Gillard, Cordner, Frizell, de Belin.  Subs: Vaughan, Trbojevic J, Crichton, Peachey.

Queensland: Morgan, Holmes (T, 2G), Inglis, Chambers, Gagai (T), Munster, Hunt, Napa, McCullough, Wallace, Cooper, Kaufusi, McGuire.  Subs: Papalii, Hess, Arrow, Milford.

Referees: Gerrard Sutton and Ashley Klein.

Half-Time: 8-6.

Full-Time: 22-12.

Attendance: 87,122.


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