Queensland stun NSW to claim State of Origin opener

·3-min read

Rookie coach Billy Slater steered Queensland to a sensational 16-10 win over New South Wales Wednesday in an epic clash to draw first blood in the best-of-three State of Origin rugby league series.

In front of 80,000 fans on a cold night at Sydney's Olympic Stadium, both teams bagged a try each in an even first half, with Valentine Holmes' conversion earning the visitors a 6-4 lead at the break.

But Queensland surged in the second stanza with early tries from Daly Cherry-Evans and Holmes setting them on the road to victory.

Cameron Murray pulled a try back for NSW with nine minutes left of a game played at a frantic pace, but Queensland hung on.

"That was the response that we wanted and any player who played last year, we wanted the chance to come back and show that the jersey means something to us, and it was a good start," said Queensland skipper Cherry-Evans.

"We have spoken about doing what it takes and when you were going to be there for each other and it will give us more confidence. Great defence."

Victory was a big step in the Maroons claiming back the shield they lost last series, when they slumped to two heavy defeats.

That embarrassment cost coach Paul Green his job with Slater, widely seen as one of the best players ever, appointed in his place.

It was his first game in charge and after recruiting fellow former Queensland greats Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston to help out they have moulded a dangerous unit.

They will look to consolidate their lead at the next game in Perth on June 26.

Defeat was crushing for NSW who are bidding to win a fourth series in five years under coach Brad Fittler.

"We lost it in the period before half-time and after half-time they came out flying and we did not respond," said veteran NSW star Nathan Cleary.

The match started at a lightning pace with defence strong from both sides but a handling error by Queensland opened the door to NSW, with Jack Wighton crashing over the first try in the 14th minute.

Cleary missed the conversion and the Maroons came charging back with Pat Carrington going close and Harry Grant held up over the line as the Blues soaked up huge pressure.

Queensland's persistence finally paid off with Dane Gagai getting on the end of a grubber kick to bag his 12th Origin try with Holmes nailing the conversion.

The Blues quickly struck back when big front rower Junior Paulo barged over, but in a major moment the try was disallowed for an obstruction.

Queensland took control of the second half with Cherry-Evans bursting from the back of a scrum to dot down and Holmes converting to put them 12-4 ahead in the 48th minute.

Holmes added another try on the left wing five minutes later.

Both sides had chances as the pace picked up and Murray finally crossed for the Blues with Cleary converting to claw them back to 16-10 and set up a grandstand finish.


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