The Queensland Maroons have caused an upset and won the first State of Origin game for 2022, defeating the NSW Blues 16-10 in front of a sold-out crowd at Accor Stadium in Sydney.
There are a lot of points to be made about this game from a multitude of aspects. Here are the five biggest takeaways from the first game of the 2022 State of Origin series.
Origin is a wild ride of an experience
From the kick-off, the energy and the presence of the crowd were absolutely astonishing. It was so loud players couldn’t hear referee Ashley Klein call a penalty.
Ashley Klein’s officiating let the game play on more. The first 20 minutes felt fast and let the pace of the game be was what it is supposed to be.
A few missed calls that could have gone either way, however, this was one of the better officiated State of Origin games we have seen in a while when speaking from start to finish. Game two in Perth and game three in Brisbane should be very exciting for any rugby league fan.
New South Wales’ spine was disappointing
The spine was really disappointing for the NSW Blues, which is really not a common thing to say about the collection of players being referenced, specifically James Tedesco, Jerome Luai, Nathan Cleary, and Damien Cook.
The offence look disorganised and lacked variety.
Cleary’s kicking game was a real letdown considering how much Brad Fittler’s offence relies on how the Penrith Panthers love to play week by week with a Nathan Cleary kicking-centric system with a ball-playing Lock forward in Isaah Yeo that hopes in an aggressive defensive line moving up quickly to shift the ball to their edge players.
Damien Cook not moving around picking up the ball from dummy half with space was an element of surprise the Blues needed to give the Maroons, as well as James Tedesco not getting enough touches especially when he found space and gaps in Queensland’s defence. When they went left to Jarome Luai, they struggled to make anything happen.
Their best offence was creating fatigue in Queensland’s forward pack in the middle and allowing their yardage players such as Daniel Tupou, Brian To’o, and the forward pack to gain a lot of metres from their own half and in Queensland’s territory.
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Jack Wighton proved a lot of haters wrong
A lot of analysts and fans were not happy when Jack Wighton was named to start over Stephen Crichton.
Jack Wighton put in a stellar performance, bringing his physicality to the game with hard strong tackles, gaining field position, and being a role player in a star-studded team.
His stat line in this game: 165 running metres from 18 runs, 2 tackle breaks, 2 line breaks, as well as scoring the first try of the series.
Wighton proved the haters wrong in this game with that amazing performance.
Based on that performance, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him start again for the match in Perth in a couple of weeks’ time.
The debutants made quite a strong impression
Queensland’s debutants really played well and showed why they were selected to be playing on one of the biggest stages the rugby league world has to offer.
Selwyn Cobbo although didn’t contest the high kicks really well, his try assist for Gagai’s try was entertaining and impressive that he pulled off a grubber kick while NSW tried to trap him with the little space he had. Cobbo, after letting in Wighton’s try would not disappoint on the defensive end with crucial plays down the stretch.
Reuben Cotter played the whole 80 minutes and provided everything he needed to. Metres, Carrying the ball and defending, with 51 tackles and 113 running metres.
Patrick Carrigan was so effective and valuable when he went onto the field around the 20-minute mark of the first half, from that point of the game, Queensland looked stronger, and hard to stop making field position and completing their sets in NSW’s half. By the end, he had 183 running metres from 19 runs, 71 post-contact metres, and 34 out of 35 tackles.
Jeremiah Nanai played with a physical aspect of his game, and although had to come off the field with an ankle injury, he was able to return and provide crucial minutes in the middle of the ruck.
Queensland’s system has a lot of freedom
NSW’s offence looked stale, disorganised, and restricting because of the structure they set up with.
The first 20 minutes were about going through the middle, getting yardage from kick returns with the wingers, and continuous ball movement.
Queensland’s defence was able to read a lot of their plays such as when an almost Xavier Coates interception occurred when the Blues shifted right.
Billy Slater allowed his forwards through the middle and let Cameron Munster play instinctively, eyes up footy and create space with dummy passes that would create line breaks to create open space footy at his will. Kalyn Ponga stood out a lot in this game, being the playmaker he is, as well as the support player in the open middle.
The eyes up footy strategy would lead to Harry Grant from dummy half taking advantage of a 3 men right-hand edge that noticed Payne Haas being out of his normal spot, making Nathan Cleary play aggressive to cover the pass from Ponga to Valentine Holmes for their final try of the night.
From the experience of the crowd and officiating to good and poor strategy and specific outstanding players’ performances, that sums up this great first game of three for the 2022 State of Origin.
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