New South Wales have stunned Queensland 12-8 in Game 1 of the 2014 State of Origin series at Suncorp Stadium to take a 1-0 lead back to Sydney for Game 2.
It was the 100th game in the storied history of State of Origin, and both sides produced a classic that befit the occasion.
In the opening exchanges it looked as if Queensland would make the perfect start to their bid for a ninth consecutive series win, with Darius Boyd finishing off a neat backline move in the fifth minute.
But the complexion of the game changed just minutes later when Cooper Cronk was forced from the field with what was confirmed to be a broken arm after the halfback appeared to make contact with Nate Myles attempting to make a tackle.
Whether it was coincidental or not, the momentum of the contest changed almost instantaneously although it was New South Wales’ dominance through a bulky forward pack that saw them gain the ascendancy.
They drew level in the 19th minute with some backline brilliance that was started by one of the Blues’ debutant halves, Josh Reynolds.
Reynolds’ pass released Jarryd Hayne, who drew multiple Maroons defenders off the left-hand edge and put Josh Morris into space to bust down the touchline before swinging the ball back inside into the path of his on-rushing twin brother Brett.
Morris finished off the try, but Trent Hodkinson would go onto miss the conversion, and the try came at a cost with Brett Morris appearing to dislocate his right shoulder but he would be back on the field from the restart.
Shortly afterwards New South Wales found themselves inside the Queensland half again and Hodkinson would atone for his miss by slotting a penalty goal from 25 metres out to make it 6-4 after 26 minutes.
The Blues continued to ask questions of the Maroons’ undersized forward pack and seemed camped in Queensland’s half late in the opening stanza.
But in the 28th minute their enthusiasm in defence boiled over, with Beau Scott and Reynolds involved in a lifting tackle on Brent Tate.
Reynolds was placed on report, and afterwards charged with a grade-two dangerous lifting charge that will see him suspended for two weeks unless he fights the charge.
They extended their lead in the 33rd minute when, after appearing to be enveloped in a tackle by skipper Cameron Smith, Greg Inglis and Johnathan Thurston, Hayne powerfully turned off the ground to plant the ball over.
Hodkinson missed the conversion, but New South Wales’ 10-4 lead was a reflection of how they had dominated the half after an early setback.
A second Hodkinson penalty just four minutes after the restart gave New South Wales their biggest lead of the match at 12-4, and it seemed they would extend that lead as they picked up where they left off in the first half.
Like he had been in the first 40 half, man of the match Hayne was ever-threatening and on 53 minutes he again broke through the Queensland line and was only stopped by Billy Slater who prevented a certain try.
It was another momentum-changer, and seemed to spur the home side into action.
Halfback Thurston was again the architect for their second try in the 56th minute, providing a sweeping pass that eventually found his way to Boyd to cross for his second.
— NRL (@NRL) May 28, 2014
Thurston was, for the second time, unsuccessful from the conversion which left the Maroons trailing by four at 12-8.
Queensland poured on the pressure in the final 20 minutes, and only a desperate in-goal tackle from Brett Morris in the 73rd minute prevented Boyd for crossing for the third time of the evening.
It would only continued in the dying stages of the contest, with successive Queensland penalties forcing New South Wales to defend successive sets of six.
But they were able to hang on, and will head south as considerable favourites to end Queensland’s eight-year dominance and win the series.
— NRL (@NRL) May 28, 2014