New South Wales fell to a heartbreaking 16-10 defeat at home in the State of Origin opener, as the QLD Maroons took a 1-0 series lead heading to Perth.
NSW toiled hard but were behind the eight-ball for most of the match, before coming home strong and threatening to pull off a miraculous comeback.
Blues captain James Tedesco provided plenty of spark for his side, but it was all to no avail as the Blues struggles in attack cost them.
Here’s who shined and who struggled in the Blues’ loss.
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1. James Tedesco – 8
Relatively quiet first half for the NSW captain, but he started after the interval full of intent by making multiple carries in sets. He constantly tried to spark his side and finished with over 200m, four tackle busts and one linebreak.
2. Brian To’o – 6
Plenty of work early, and was the obvious target for Queensland’s high kicks. He defused them well and provided his standard hit-ups out of yardage, with one run in particular during the second half eye-catching.
3. Kotoni Staggs – 3.5
Took 12 minutes before he got his first run, and was rocked by a massive tackle. The Blues kept trying to isolate him against makeshift centre Kurt Capewell without results. Left the field with a shoulder injury after 50 minutes.
4. Jack Wighton – 7.5
Scored the first try of the night with a strong carry from close range. Then, almost scored his second as he raced away down the touchline only to be ankle-tapped. One of NSW’s best.
5. Daniel Tupou – 7
Rolled his sleeves up and did plenty of yardage carries. Tupou more than justified why he was selected over Josh Addo-Carr on the wing with over 150m and a try-saving stop on his line.
6. Jarome Luai – 7
Provided the short pass to Wighton to go over in the corner and set up the second with an excellent short pass to Cam Murray. Also made a vital legs tackle to save a try.
7. Nathan Cleary – 3.5
The halfback struggled to get into the contest and remained on the peripheries all night. The closest he got to making an impact was when he narrowly missed scooping up a grubber from Tedesco through the middle.
8. Payne Haas – 6
Quiet first stint from the big front rower beside a rampaging run which saw Cam Munster get swatted away. He made just shy of 50 metres in his first spell, before finishing with 109m.
9. Damien Cook – 6
Excellent pass out of dummy-half which contributed to NSW’s first try of the night. Showed the odd spark when linking with Cam Murray through the middle.
16. Reagan Campbell-Gillard – 5
Struggled to make many metres in the frantic opening stages of the match. The prop lifted the intensity in his second stint though with tough defence and some strong carries.
15. Liam Martin – 5.5
Didn’t provide much on the right edge in attack after being brought into the starting side late at the expense of Cam Murray, but defended well all night and finished with 51 tackles.
12. Tariq Sims – 6
Solid in defence, while providing a few noteworthy runs. The Dragons backrower did his job on the left edge with minimal fuss.
13. Isaah Yeo – 6
Rocked on the first tackle as he got bowled over by Josh Papalii, yet remarkably stayed on the field. Almost made a heroic final play with a run towards the line, before getting cut down by last-gasp Queensland defence.
10. Junior Paulo – 2.5
Took too many risks with his passing game and dropped the ball trying to get a quick play-the-ball. He thought he’d scored in the shadows of half-time, but his try from close-range was chalked off for obstruction. The forward finished with just 27m.
11. Cameron Murray – 6
Was a surprise omission from the starting side and one of his first actions in the match was getting caught stopping in the line, which meant Paulo’s try got disallowed.
Made amends though with a late try of his own and grew into the contest.
14. Stephen Crichton – 3.5
Entered into the fray at right centre, after Staggs went off injured. One of his first involvements was being put on report for a tipping tackle on Munster, and the penalty resulted in Val Holmes scoring in the corner.
Didn’t get much chance to have an impact but will likely earn a start next game.
17. Ryan Matterson – 5
Didn’t provide his usual offloads or attacking intent, but provided solid service through the middle with 19 tackles and 70 metres.