Queensland hold on for 16-10 win in Origin series at Sydney

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SYDNEY (AP) — Valentine Holmes scored a try, kicked two goals and combined with fellow veteran Cameron Munster to help guide Queensland to a 16-10 win over New South Wales in the State-of-Origin series opener Wednesday in front of more than 80,500 fans in Sydney’s Olympic Park.

New South Wales scored first, with center Jack Wighton barging over near the left corner in the 15th minute, but Queensland hit back via Dane Gagai five minutes before the break to take a 6-4 halftime lead.

The Queenslanders extended the margin to 12 points with tries to skipper Daly Cherry-Evans in the 49th and Holmes in the 54th and then held on desperately in the last eight minutes after Cameron Murray scored to get the Blues back within a converted try.

The Maroons' defense held firm with Blues lock Isaah Yeo getting within reaching distance of an equalizer in the last play of the game.

It was the first time since 2017, when coach Billy Slater and his assistants Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston were all playing for the Maroons, that Queensland has won an Origin contest in Sydney.

They now go to Perth for Game 2 on June 26 hoping to clinch the series ahead of hosting the third and final game in Brisbane on July 13.

New South Wales won the series 2-1 in 2021 without playing a game at home because of restrictions in place for the COVID-19 pandemic, but now face the uphill task of having to win twice away from home to retain the trophy in the biggest annual grudge contest in Australian sport.

It was a successful coaching debut for the 38-year-old Slater, who picked four rookies in his 17-man squad and stuck with some veterans who were his Origin teammates before he retired in 2018.

Winger Selwyn Cobbie set up a try on his Origin debut, with the 20-year-old winger collecting a bouncing pass near the right sideline and deftly kicking behind the Blues' defenders for Gagai to chase and touch down for Queensland's first points in the 35th.

Backrower Pat Carrigan made a big impact on debut, changing the momentum of the game when he came off the interchange bench in the first half.

Five-eighth Munster and midfielder Holmes were ever-present to either shut down the half-opportunities for New South Wales or create chances for Queensland.

“One of the hardest games I’ve ever played,” Munster said, adding that the young coaching combination of Slater, Smith and Thurston “put a lot of belief into us.”

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