Queensland 18 NSW 10
NSW feels the Blues. Again
Battered but victorious ... The Maroons take game one of the State of Origin series. Photo: Getty Images
THROUGH all of Queensland's dominance since 2006, so many matches have been won by big plays. This one turned on big decisions. No doubt, when the Maroons turned it on, they looked like a better side (it's hard to deny that they are a better side), but NSW had been winning the battle before the fight changed everything. One swing by Michael Jennings and the match was on the ropes.
And then the second one, which will also be dissected heavily. Video referee Sean Hampstead's decision to allow a Greg Inglis try with seven minutes remaining - after he had appeared to knock on after planting the ball on Robbie Farah's knee, then left their series on the ropes.
Whether Jennings's sin-binning was deserved will be fodder for debate from now until game two. What we know is this: Jennings's speed gave him a try, but his eagerness to cock his fist handed the Maroons an advantage that they clung onto. So the stadium where it all began for the Maroons, with a victory in game three of 2006, won't be where the dominance ends for the side.
The Blues now face a massive task, needing to win in Brisbane in game three - assuming the series is still live by then - to end the Maroons' streak.
Similar to last year, there were good signs for NSW. While they were a side picked with attack in mind, their defence was strong and their forwards stung. While five-eighth Todd Carney could not stamp himself on the encounter as he would have liked, Farah produced some moments to remember.
Skipper Paul Gallen, as usual, was strong, having struggled to train early in the Blues' build-up, but he recovered sufficiently from a quadriceps strain, and gave it an early test with the first hit-up.
But it was his front-row partner, James Tamou, who proved a terror.
A big brute of a man, his size troubled the Maroons.
On one of his early rumbles, which came after a Matt Scott offload gone wrong, Tamou bullied the Queenslanders and put his team on the front foot. Farah also showed his worth with the kick that gave winger Akuila Uate the first try.
The Blues were hurrying the Maroons with the ball and without it. On the Maroons' first real trip down the attacking end, Inglis attempted too much too soon and was bundled into touch by Josh Morris.
The Maroons were scrambling. But they did scramble well. When Farah darted for the line, he was held up; Scott did much of the dirty work to prevent the try.
And then The Decision. After Scott had thrown the ball at Bird, the back-rower turned to find himself surrounded by Queenslanders. For a moment, anyway. Ben Creagh, so criticised for running away from Justin Hodges in 2009, was first to protect his teammate. Jennings came quickly after that, throwing a punch.
As the scene was replayed on the big screens, Gallen could sense the problem. He hovered by the referee Matt Cecchin, who ultimately called out Jennings and told him: ''You've come running from a distance when it had nothing to do with you. Go.'' Gallen protested, saying: ''Sam Thaiday's been running in like that for years.'' But Jennings was already on his way.
The Blues rallied, Jarryd Hayne pushing Brent Tate out as he dived for the line. But they could only hold them for so long. Quick hands to Darius Boyd gave the Maroons their first try, and the lead.
Suddenly, the doubts came, along with the mistakes. Carney failed to find touch from a penalty, then lost the ball just as the Blues were desperate for some time off from tackling. Then Bird's tackle on halfback Cooper Cronk was penalised. The Maroons came up with an even slicker and quicker move to the left wing of Boyd. Smith's silver service from dummy half found Cronk, whose long ball hit Johnathan Thurston's Queensland's badge. Thurston then sent Boyd over for his second.
Slater, who had struggled under the high ball all night, fumbled another and Jennings, the man of the moment scored his second try of the contest.
The Blues will live to regret other decisions. They opted to shoot for goal after a 53rd minute penalty, just as they were re-establishing their dominance. Carney's kick slid wide and Queensland breathed again.
It was a gripping contest, which had just about everything. Except a NSW win.
QUEENSLAND 18 (D Boyd 2 G Inglis tries J Thurston 3 goals) bt NEW SOUTH WALES 10 (M Jennings A Uate tries T Carney goal) at Etihad Stadium. Referee: Matt Cecchin, Ben Cummins. Crowd: 56,021.