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State of Origin: Superlatives not enough to describe unbelievable contest

Blues fullback Jarryd Hayne was phenomenal against Queensland.

Blues fullback Jarryd Hayne was phenomenal against Queensland. Photo: Getty Images

It's hard to find the words to describe what we witnessed in game one of State of Origin for 2014.

Outstanding? That just doesn't seem to cover it. Brilliant? Well, a lot of games throughout Origin history have been brilliant. This was something different.

Billy Slater of the Maroons runs through James Tamou and Beau Scott of the blues during game one of the State of Origin series between the Queensland Maroons and the New South Wales Blues at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. Click for more photos

State of Origin: Qld v NSW

The Queensland Maroons take on New South Wales in the first game of the 2014 State of Origin Series at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Wednesday, May 28. Photo: Getty Images

Phenomenal? Getting closer; but it was better than that.  It was one of the most gripping, energy sapping and emotionally draining sporting contests I've had the pleasure to watch in all my time in this game. 

Origin football has entertained us, tortured us, teased us and amazed us for 35 seasons. In this the 100th match between these great sporting rivals, it was as if all the highs, lows, dramas and magical moments of the past, all came to join the party on this wonderful night of footballing celebration. 

There are no words I can call on to do justice to the efforts of all 34 players who took part in this epic encounter. The modern-day player is so strong, so courageous, so willing to give every ounce their being in search of victory, that it is hard to imagine these two teams ever reproducing an 80-minute period of such toughness and intensity.

At times during this match all players involved must've gone to very dark places in their minds as they desperately clung to the speed of the contest. As the seconds ticked down to the final siren with only a try the difference, every player was under the most intense scrutiny imaginable. For NSW, the defenders knew that one missed tackle, one bad read, one panicked decision, could lose them the game. The Queenslanders threw everything in their arsenal at the Blues' line in search of the levelling play. The Blues remained stoic, throwing up in their path a giant blue wall that refused to yield. 

The proud champions from the north kept coming after their rivals. They never gave up at any stage of the contest. They looked to be struggling just after half-time, but as they have done year after year, they came surging back into the contest through sheer will and determination.  It was a game built on passion and pride, on physical effort that defied exhaustion. To complement these heroic deeds, the two teams put together some slashing passages of skilful rugby league as well. 

The most pleasing aspect of NSW's performance was the new-found aggressiveness and confidence in attack.  From very early on in the match it was obvious the Blues had direction and intent with their attacking formations. They targeted the Maroons' left-hand defence with sweeping plays and plenty of bodies in motion. Queensland halfback Johnathan Thurston was the target of their assault. Fullback Jarryd Hayne was the focal point of their play. They delivered the ball to him exactly how he likes to receive it - early, wide and on the move. Hayne did the rest. His speed and footwork threatened the Queensland defenders as they were caught in two minds between protecting Thurston or marking up on their opposite number. At times Hayne seemed to be taunting the defensive line and for the first time in many years, the Queenslanders looked rattled. 

The other part of the Blues game plan was to chance their arm a little by forcing offloads in the tackles to create some second phase play. It's a brave attitude to take into a game of this quality, but when the passes stick it certainly saps the energy from the defending team. From broken field situations the Blues found easy metres up the field, keeping the Queenslanders under constant pressure. 

It must be said though, that the much-improved attacking structures for NSW were only a small part of the winning package. Resolute goal-line defence was the major factor for them in this memorable victory.

Queensland? The home side was undoubtedly rocked by the early departure of halfback Cooper Cronk. It doesn't matter how many times his replacement Daly Cherry-Evans may have trained with the team or come from the bench for some action at the back end of games, suddenly being thrown the reins of the team with over 70 minutes to play was always going to present a new challenge to this talented youngster. Even the greats of Origin will tell you it took them a couple of seasons to feel completely comfortable in this elite arena. The Maroons looked a little cumbersome in comparison to their normally slick execution. There is no doubt DCE will be much better for the run. 

They improved significantly the further the match wore on and there is no doubt they will be back for revenge in the return bout in Sydney in three weeks time.  There were so many courageous performers in this Maroons' team. They can be proud of their efforts. On this night though, the Blues won a contest on which they can build a winning series. After beating the champion Queensland team on its home soil, it would be a giant waste of that achievement if the Blues were to lose their only home Origin in Game II.

Maybe, just maybe, the eight-year torment for NSW is about to end. 

121 comments

  • Phil
    a really fine article and I agree - one of the bestest origin games ever.

    Commenter
    Peter
    Location
    Armidale
    Date and time
    May 28, 2014, 11:21PM
    • Pity only one of the Hayne's on the field had a good game...

      Commenter
      Scotty
      Date and time
      May 29, 2014, 8:29AM
    • How the hell did Reynolds finish the game?

      Commenter
      Tony
      Location
      Qld
      Date and time
      May 29, 2014, 8:45AM
    • Yes, hopefully NSW will enjoy a similar penalty count to Qld in the second game.

      Commenter
      Oldfootyhead
      Date and time
      May 29, 2014, 8:52AM
    • @Scotty - Rofl -Hayne (the ref) has been re-incarnated, his real name is Barry Gommersall!

      Commenter
      NSWelshmen
      Date and time
      May 29, 2014, 8:55AM
    • Was it one of the best origin games ever because NSW won?

      Commenter
      ozcurly1
      Date and time
      May 29, 2014, 8:56AM
    • NSW proved they must overcome the referee to win these games. The first QLD try featured a knock-on (from Tate I think) in the lead-up and the second a blatant forward pass. To top it all off a knock-on is ruled against the blues in the dying stages when the player did not play at it and it came off his upper arm/shoulder area. These types of decisions have plagued NSW in recent years. I believe these decisions were, in part, what Laurie Daley was referring to when he stated post match that NSW had to overcome a lot to win that game. Congratulations NSW.

      Commenter
      Old Bill
      Date and time
      May 29, 2014, 9:02AM
    • Scotty can you envisage any situation when you would not have a winge, great game and from a Queenslander the best team on the night won

      Commenter
      fredor
      Date and time
      May 29, 2014, 9:30AM
    • "they (QLD) came surging back into the contest through sheer will and determination."... "and no small amount of dodgy penalties to keep them in the hunt" would be more accurate.

      Commenter
      Mostly Harmless
      Location
      Pale (Go the) Blue(s!!!) Dot
      Date and time
      May 29, 2014, 9:31AM
    • NSW played at their best , Qld didn't really get out of 2nd gear except for the last 25 minutes of the game .

      Look out in Game 2 when we level up the series :)

      Commenter
      Kimbo
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      May 29, 2014, 9:36AM

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