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Five talking points from State of Origin Game 1

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5th June, 2019
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Queensland has pulled off a thrilling second-half comeback over New South Wales in Game 1 of the 2019 State of Origin Series, turning an eight-point halftime deficit into an 18-14 victory at Suncorp Stadium.

A Dane Gagai second-half double inside four minutes turned the tide of the contest, leaving the Blues too much to do inside a thrilling final ten minutes that saw one final push to the finish line fall short.

Here are five talking points from Game 1.

MORE ORIGIN
State of Origin Game 1: Final score and results
Five talking points from Game 1
Re-live The Roar’s live State of Origin blog
GORE: Queensland won because they’re better at Origin
WATCH: Full State of Origin Game 1 highlights
Origin Game 1: NSW Blues player ratings
Origin Game 1: Queensland Maroons player ratings

Proof that lower-scoring doesn’t mean boring
If you didn’t watch the game and just checked in on the score, you might assume it was a bland contest with not much going on. A common mentality with rugby league – and any sport for that matter – is that a low-scoring affair is a boring affair.

Not today my friends, this one was a doozy.

There were still tries scored and points on the board, but expectations dictated points galore for this game with two young, energetic and free-flowing sides coming up against each other.

There was just a single four-pointer in the first half. That didn’t stop it from being one of the most back-and-forth, entertaining and exciting 80 minutes of Origin footy in recent memory.

When the Maroons hit back with a try of their own in the second half, they were gaining momentum, the home crowd finding their voices, and the tension building to a whole new level.

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The fight of the players, the excitement of the crowd, the tension on commentary and the importance of every single play, every single tackle. Neither side wanted to crack first – they both wanted to strike first.

With scores locked at eight-all with only 15 minutes to go the crescendo was building. Both sides still in it, still fighting. The result was up in the air.

Dane Gagai’s runaway intercept try threatened to send the roof off of Suncorp Stadium. The home crowd could feel the importance of the contest and the series alike with that one game-changing play.

A second to Gagai just four minutes later looked to have sealed the deal for the home side, tearing the Blues’ confidence to pieces after holding a lead just five minutes earlier and a win away from home on the cards. There was yet another twist to come.

Jake Trbojevic barged over under the sticks with five minutes to go, giving Nathan Cleary an easy conversion to bridge the gap to just four points. Unfortunately for the Blues, it was too little too late.

A game to give the nerves a shakeup for sure, no matter what side of the border you live on.

Nathan Cleary

(Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images)

What can you ground the ball with? And can we sort it out!
Dylan Napa, and most of Queensland, thought the Maroons had their first points on the board in the 29th-minute… for about three minutes.

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A cheeky Daly Cherry-Evans kick into the goal post was almost too perfect for Joe Ofahengaue, who despite the inability to scoop the ball up, was still able to get his foot to the ball for Napa to plant the Steeden behind the sticks.

A Bunker intervention would not only deny the big redhead a four-pointer for getting the ball down more with the base of his forearm and wrist than his hands, but also raise a question that seems to rear its head every year.

What part of your body counts as grounding the ball? A question with a seemingly random set of answers depending on the referee, the teams playing, the weather, the time of day and what the Prime Minister had for breakfast.

Can we get a definitive ruling and stick to it, please!?

Even Gus Gould spurted out “This would have been a try in the eighties” in disagreement with the no try decision. I remember seeing Jamie Lyon being awarded a try about 12 years ago even though he completely missed the ball with his arms and grounded the ball down with his pelvis.

Sometimes halfway up the arm is enough to be given a try, other times getting downward pressure with the back of your hand doesn’t count. It’s all over the shop, it always has been. It’s a ruling that arises so rarely that it’s never given the chance to be fixed.

Try or no try? Doesn’t matter now that the game is over. The definition of a try in rugby league isn’t over, and it should be sorted out.

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Was it a penalty try?
For the third time in as many State of Origin games, there was a penalty try controversy. Games 2 and 3 of the 2018 series saw a penalty try given and one denied respectively.

Game 1 of 2019 saw a repeat of the later.

There is absolutely no doubt that Matt Gillett was taken out before getting to the ball. It was just short of the try line. It’s hard to argue he wouldn’t have at least gotten a touch to the ball, if not reeled it into possession. No penalty try though.

Latrell Mitchell was shown the digits and spent ten minutes in the sin bin, a result New South Wales had to be happy with in the context of the situation. Terrible timing with the Maroons on the front foot, but the ensuing penalty goal was better than conceding a possible six points.

There are always two sides of the coin for these.

The Blues can argue that there was no certainty of Gillett getting to the ball and putting it down in goal, but Queensland could say that being so close to the line and in front of the two chasing NSW players, he had the best chance of getting to the ball and was denied the opportunity to do so.

Personally, I would have been ok with the decision going either way – it looked to be 50/50 whether or not he would without a doubt score the try. That’s the factor that usually decides these moments. It has to be certain that a player was denied a try.

The only real certainty was Mitchell getting sent to the bin.

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Wingers are crazy. Second time’s the charm for Corey Oates
Wingers these days, I tell you what. A try of the year and mind-blowing feat a decade-and-a-half ago is now the norm in rugby league.

Case in point Corey Oates.

Early in the first half, the Broncos winger set off from the left sideline, soaring a metre or so into the air and planting the ball down one-handed while his body was simultaneously in mid-air and out of the field of play. A miracle in the days of old.

It was all for nothing in the end as replays showed his left boot planted on the sideline paint before he took flight.

Not to be deterred though, he thought it might be fun to do the whole thing all over again in the second half, this time learning from his previous error which was barely a matter of centimetres.

In the 52nd-minute he wouldn’t be denied again, pulling off a near-identical mid-air-one-handed-out-of-touch-and-anything-else-you-can-think-of corner finish on the left wing for the Maroons first points of the day.

The aerial ability of outside backs in this day and age is such a regular occurrence that it’s almost taken for granted in the modern era. Fans are accustomed to it.

The fact that Oates planted the same ridiculous finish twice in the same game is astounding and a credit to the quality of competition we witness these days.

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Corey Oates

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Josh Morris: The random return NSW never knew they needed
In a new era for New South Wales side, debuting well over a dozen new Origin players over the last four games, Josh Morris is probably the most obscure selection anyone could have thought of leading into the series-opener.

Brad Fittler’s right side selection conundrum was solved with a player who wasn’t even on the radar to start with.

The older Morris twin announced his representative retirement in 2017, having not played since the year prior in a losing 2016 series. Yet Fittler convinced him to make a return to the arena, and it has paid immediate dividends.

A try in the 20th-minute, his sixth Origin meat pie, was the first and only of the opening half and a crucial turning point after an intense, fast-paced opening stanza.

Morris wound back the clock in the first half, looking like the same young gun that tore onto the State of Origin scene a decade earlier in 2009, carrying two defenders over the line to plant the pill over the chalk.

Like most of his career though, it’s not just his try-scoring ability that makes the difference, after all, this is a guy who spent the better part of eight years defending Greg Inglis.

He’s not the most hard-hitting or flashy in the line, but he gets the job done. He finds a way to hang on, to bring a man down on the fringes when it’s required and Game 1 was no different.

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Nick Cotric is no slouch in defence, but more than once Morris was covering that right defensive edge from a Queensland half-break. Saving a try in the 51st-minute, despite possibly being about 10 metres offside, but he was there nonetheless.

His ability to break the first tackle on a high percentage kept the Blues rolling forward in a grinding first half.

He was never brought in to change the course of Origin history or even win the game single-handily. But as an elder statesman of the side, he had a job to do and he did it the only way Josh Morris knows how.