The mighty Queensland Maroons last night claimed a gritty 16 – 12 win over a gutsy Blues outfit in the opening 2011 State of Origin game, kicking off what could be an unprecedented sixth straight series win for the sunshine state stars.
It was a night to remember for the 52,144 screaming fans that packed into Suncorp Stadium last night and for the hundreds thousands more Maroons supporters cheering along from bars and living rooms around the country.
Saluting as the odds-on favourites, the Canetoads produced the legendary Queensland spirit, heart and determination needed to come from behind and secure the first State of Origin match for 2011.
After a nicely weighted grubber kick from veteran Cameron Smith, later named Man of the Match, Maroons half-back Johnathan Thurston was able to open Queensland’s account with an entertaining try in the first five minutes.
Punters that had backed Thurston in the first tryscorer markets at Luxbet enjoyed a quick result in the first five minutes!
The champion from North Queensland converted his own four-pointer and put the home team in front six – nil in the early stages, setting up what could have been a complete Blues thrashing.
It wasn’t to be, however, with the New South Welshman showing plenty of punch in defence and holding off the hard-hitting Queenslanders who spent plenty of time inside the Blues half without luck and went to the break up six.
Back for the second half, it was another quick try for Queensland with Brett Morris making a costly mistake for the Blues, the winger failing to pick up a Cooper Cronk grubber that instead bounced right to Jharal Yow Yeh who scored on debut to give Queensland a 10 – nil advantage.
It looked like the match could creep into field goal territory, with Thurston given the chance to make it 12 – nil with a 60th minute penalty goal.
But pressure and the breeze saw Thurston blow the attempt.
Momentum is a funny thing in the NRL and on NRL’s greatest stage, the State of Origin, momentum means even more.
The Blues found this and were able to finally post their first points of the night in the 69th minute when Mitchell Pearce went over and then again just four minutes later thanks to Penrith flyer Michael Jennings scoring their second after dummying past Slater, Dragons kicker Jamie Soward converting two from two to steal the lead 12 – 10.
New South Wales supporters that started early celebrations were quickly taught a lesson in Maroon mentality.
In true Queensland style, captain Darren Lockyer threw a superb inside ball to Maroon No. 1 Billy Slater who went over the line to go into double figures for Origin tries and win back the game.
Proving no State of Origin clash is complete without a biff, after the whistle blew Corey Parker and Greg Bird started a punch-up that quickly faded out.
After a thrilling try from Broncos flyer turned Maroons winger Jharal Yow Yeh on debut, as well as a tough first-up Origin performance from Melbourne centre Dane Neilson, it will be a tough decision not to re-select both boys when the 2011 State of Origin Teams for game two are announced next month.
It will also be playing on the mind of Blues coach Ricky Stewart whether his five debut players last night did enough to earn a second call up, giving New South Wales the stability they need to begin a new era in the Origin arena.
The scene is now set next month’s second State of Origin clash in Sydney, game two at ANZ Stadium on June 15 to either set up a nail-biting decider for Origin Game three in July or the possibility of another Queensland whitewash to farewell Maroon’s skipper Lockyer in his swansong Origin appearance.
With Origin game one done and dusted, punters and fans across the nation will be keen for the next instalment and for the best State of Origin Betting Luxbet is the place to head.
After Wednesday night’s victory, Queensland has firmed into the $1.19 favourites to win the State of Origin Series for 2011 at Luxbet.
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