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Sky’s the limit for Chapman after speedster’s solo sizzler catapults Blues to Origin win over Maroons

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16th May, 2024
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The Maroons are lucky the women’s State of Origin series has been extended to three matches otherwise the shield would be close to being as good as gone.

NSW dominated Thursday night’s series opener at Suncorp Stadium to race to a 16-0 lead, withstand a trademark spirited Queensland comeback before running out 22-12 winners in front of a record crowd of 25,492. 

And while Queensland don’t have to worry about for and against to claim the shield like last year, they will still have to produce a major turnaround to prevent NSW from clinching the crown in game two at Newcastle on June 6.

Sky Blues winger Jaime Chapman underlined her reputation as one of the most dynamic attacking weapons in the NRLW with a barnstorming performance on the right edge.

She made the long-range break which propelled NSW to their first try and then produced one of the best individual tries in Origin history on either side of the gender agenda. 

The 22-year-old speedster, who has scored 16 tries in her 23 NRL appearances for the Dragons, Broncos and Titans, including nine from as many starts with the Gold Coast last year in their run to the Grand Final. 

And it was another piece of individual brilliance, this time at the defensive end from Millie Elliott which sealed the win.

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Maroons hooker Emma Manzelmann looked set to score next to the posts in the 61st minute to cut the deficit to four but with the quick footwork of Billy Elliot and working hard like Missy Elliott, the NSW front-rower’s despairing tackle on the line forced the ball from her opponent’s grasp.

“If Emma scores that try, it’s 22-18 and it’s a different ball game,” said Maroons captain Ali Brigginshaw. “We’ve got to learn from that, that’s a kick in the butt to us.”

Both teams were not quite at their best due to the scheduling shemozzle which has led to Origin being played before the NRLW season. 

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 16: Jaime Chapman of New South Wales celebrates after scoring a try during game one of the 2024 Women's State of Origin series between Queensland and New South Wales at Suncorp Stadium on May 16, 2024 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Jaime Chapman celebrates after scoring. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Queensland were supposed to have an advantage after the NSW competition was pushed back to coincide with the NRLW competition. 

The Maroons players have all been running around in the Queensland Cup for two months while the Sky Blues opted to hold a seven-week training camp with only Chapman, Olivia Kernick, Kezie Apps and Keeley Davis getting any game time under their belts from playing north of the border.

Chapman made her first incisive attacking foray in just the fifth minute when she skipped clear down the right sideline before Kernick put Caitlin Johnston through the middle.

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The powerful prop stood in the tackle of Maroons star Tamika Upton to find Emma Tonegato backing up for a 6-0 lead.

Queensland paid the price for a disorganised last-play option which resulted in second-rower Romy Teitzel hoisting a wobbly kick to Chapman with room to move.

She goose-stepped to fly past Evania Pelite’s tackle from her own red zone, produced a prodigious sidestep to scorch past Upton and kicked again to give the cover defence no hope of reeling her in as her top speed clocked in at a fraction under 30km/h.

“That is breathtaking, absolutely brilliant,” said former NSW coach Phil Gould, who has seen countless magical Origin moments, on Nine commentary. 

Elliott said Chapman’s weaponry out wide was a huge asset. “She’s such an incredible athlete, such a natural player. She’s always on and playing such good footy at the moment,” she said.

The Maroons were on the ropes and after they conceded a penalty in front of the posts, NSW stretched out to a 14-0 lead midway through the first half and held onto that advantage to the break. 

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NSW were superior in every stat – getting the edge in possession and field position, forcing their opponents to complete 43 more tackles in the opening 35-minute period, which led to the Maroons missing 18 to the visiting team’s six.

Queensland levelled up many of the key metrics by full-time but with six line breaks to 1 and bettering their opponents 36-20 in tackle breaks overall, the Sky Blues’ firepower in attack proved the difference.

Sky Blues coach Kylie Hilder pulled a late change by dropping Davis to the interchange and starting Kernick at lock and the 23-year-old Rooster showed she was more than up to the challenge by peeling off some clever passing on the edge, making plenty of post-contact metres and also churning through her defensive assignment.

Second-rowers Yasmin Clydsdale and Kezie Apps were a constat thorn in Queensland’s side on the edges as the Sky Blues pack outmuscled the home forwards.

Maroons coach Tahnee Norris had been forced to tinker with her line-up when key forward Keilee Joseph was ruled out a few days before kick-off with a knee problem with Makenzie Weale called into the interchange for her Origin debut.

“We knew we made some really crucial errors in that first half and it did us in,” said Norris. “If we can fix those crucial errors, I think it changes the game.”

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After booting a penalty goal early in the second half, NSW should have been up by 20 but winger Tiana Penitani paid the price for not going low enough when trying to dive over in the corner and was bundled into touch.

It was back to a 10-point deficit in the 54th minute when Upton zigzagged over and with the Queenslander chant ringing around the stadium, the hosts looked like storming to victory before Elliott denied Manzelmann with her last-ditch tackle.

NSW sealed the win with Johnston barging over from close range off a rehearsed inside pass play before the Maroons reduced the final margin to 10 when Emily Bass touched down in the dying stages.

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