The Queensland Maroons have run out victors in Game 1 of the 2019 State of Origin series over the New South Wales Blues by four points, coming from behind during a stunning second half effort to win 18-14. Here are my player ratings for the home side.
1. Kalyn Ponga – 8/10
If a player has ever played a game of two halves, this was it.
During the first half, a part of Queensland’s strategy seemed to be “pass it to Ponga and let’s see what happens.”
In short, not much happened. He was caught down the short side trying to goose step through the line, and made a few other glaringly poor choices.
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The second half brought a very different Ponga though as he fit into the team structure, chipped in to setting up their tries and played the game the Maroons needed him to play.
Given he wasn’t awful in the first half, the eight is justified.
2. Corey Oates – 7.5
I was a real fan of Corey Oates and his performance last night.
Just didn’t stop trying. The most pleasing element was his defence, whether under the high ball, making tackles, or in the kick return stakes.
He had nearly 140 metres and just looked like he belonged.
3. Michael Morgan – 6
Morgan was playing out of position, but anyone doubting whether he could do it or not must have had rocks in their head.
Threatened the Blues try line a couple of times and was pretty good with the footy in hand, making few poor decisions throughout the contest.
4. Will Chambers – 7
Chambers made some pretty sloppy plays during the first half, but started to come good – very good – during the Maroons’ dominant second 40.
He certainly seemed to adjust his game after chatting at halftime, and really fit in with those working from the inside, and Gagai from the outside.
It wasn’t the perfect performance, but it was pretty damn solid for Chambers.
5. Dane Gagai – 9.5
What is it about Dane Gagai and State of Origin?
He just becomes a completely different player. At club level, he is serviceable. At Origin level, the South Sydney winger becomes a candidate for man of the match just about every time.
He was phenomenal last night, scoring a couple of tries and running for 270 metres from 18 runs (although 90 of them were in one carry, to be fair).
Gagai also had a line break, a handful of tackle breaks, an offload, and he was brilliant in defence, not missing a single tackle across the 80 minutes, which is a fair effort when you consider the sort of pressure the Blues put them under during the first half, and that Queensland missed 50 in total.
A deserved man of the match.
6. Cameron Munster – 8
Unlike a lot of his teammates, Munster’s first half was a lot better than the second. He was dangerous during the first 40 minutes, threatening to flip the momentum on a couple of occasions.
While he didn’t do much wrong in the second half, it’d be fair to say some of his teammates took over.
Still, Munster wasn’t far away from the discussion for man of the match.
7. Daly Cherry-Evans – 6.5
Cherry-Evans was under the gun coming into this match, no doubt about it.
He had a huge burden as captain of the state and still not being sure all the fans like him, but he rose to the occasion, and what was most impressive was that he didn’t try to overplay his hand.
He just stuck to being the guiding half, had a really strong kicking game and carried out his role without a problem at the defensive end of the park.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to give him any more points given his lack of attacking control during the second half. Queensland should have put the game away earlier than they did, but it seemed Cherry-Evans just couldn’t get things working the right way out of the halves.
8. Jai Arrow – 6.5
Arrow, like many of the Queensland forwards, had more than 100 metres in his 47 minutes.
His first stint was solid, but his second was outstanding. Of course, it helps when your team is on the front foot, but Arrow parked them there at times during the last 15 minutes, whether that be the big run or a settler, he just did his job and helped the Maroons shoot to the lead.
9. Ben Hunt – 6
Hunt is the player I expect to have the most wildly disagreeable version of a rating for the Queensland side.
Let’s get the positive – and the reason he was awarded a six – out of the way first. For a half, who is used to not doing that much work in defence and defending out wide, he was excellent.
It’s what Queensland are built on – the ability to go to work and do a job. He did just that, topping the tackle count for the match with 53. New South Wales did what they needed to do in directing traffic his way, but Hunt stayed solid and played the entire game.
Unfortunately, his service out of dummy half let him down. It’s hard to blame him given he isn’t used to the position or role, but a number of passes found the ground, and it was often slow service that let the Queenslanders down.
Better in the second half than the first, but still, playing out of position, a very solid effort.
10. Josh Papalii – 8
Papalii’s work in defence was probably the most pleasing factor about his performance. Missed just the one tackle as he made 30 in what were some trying circumstances at times through the middle 20 as Damien Cook and James Tedesco went to work.
He also came up with some big runs for the Maroons and cracked a century of metres in a game, which, while not going to be a standout, deserves more credit than it’s worth, particularly for his defence during the first half.
11. Felise Kaufusi – 9
Alongside Gagai in the Queensland win, Kaufusi was my other pick for man of the match.
He was the pick of a solid Maroons forward pack, and just didn’t put a foot wrong throughout the game. Every time Queensland needed a carry, the underrated second rower would provide one, especially during a pretty tense first half where the home side found themselves under the pump more often than they didn’t.
It was more than his raw stats though which ended at 33 tackles and 121 metres. It was his aggression, and ability to do something big whenever it was needed.
12. Matt Gillett – 5
Unfortunately for Gillett, it wasn’t the greatest of returns to Origin after his long injury lay-off last year. He made plenty of tackles, but also missed seven, and just didn’t go looking for the footy when he needed to, only getting his hands on it five times for 42 metres in an 80-minute performance.
The talent of Gillett is tremendous, so Queensland fans will be hoping to have him back at his best for Game 2.
13. Josh McGuire – 7.5
While Gillett struggled to get involved in the contest, McGuire had no such difficulties at lock. Playing just over 50 minutes, he had 107 metres and 44 tackles, but it was more than the numbers for the Cowboys lock.
He was aggressive. Every hit up took numbers to stop, and no one wanted to run at him, because it was going to hurt, frankly.
He is the next version of a Queensland lock like Ashley Harrison or Dallas Johnson, who just tackled and ran all day without doing fancy.
Players like McGuire make the Origin arena go around. You need them to win.
14. Moses Mbye – 3
Unfortunately, it’s hard to give Mbye anymore than a three on his debut. He spent all but eight minutes of the match on the bench and had no real impact once getting onto the park.
15. Joe Ofahengaue – 6.5
Ofahengaue was the best of the Maroons bench players until he was forced to go off with a cut to the leg which was simply too terrible to clean up during the game.
While I’d refuse to say the Maroons had a drop out without the debutant on the field, there was a difference. They were already on top of the game so it mattered even less, but Ofahengaue proved he belongs.
16. Dylan Napa – 5.5
Napa has been a reliable performer more often than not for the Maroons, and was so again last night, finishing the contest with 84 metres and ten tackles.
He made some errors in defence though, which is a concern.
17. David Fifita – 5
Fifita’s Origin debut was solid without being spectacular. Got carried away with some silly stuff on one or two occasions, but otherwise, did what he needed to do during the second half to keep Queensland rolling.
What would have been interesting is if he had of played during the first half, and exactly how he went under that sort of pressure.
At the moment, it’s tough to bump up any further than a five.