A run from Isaah Yeo into the barn in the final game of State of Origin’s opener came very close to sending the match to the golden point, but Queensland eventually prevailed 16-10 to give a start of dreams of Billy Slater’s adventure as a coach.
Referee Ashley Klein was laying down the law as Queensland’s Kalyn Ponga, Ben Hunt and Felise Kaufusi struggled with Yeo inches from the try line in front of the posts, demanding they give the Panthers co-captain a chance to play the ball one last time. .
The Maroons trio didn’t overstep the mark, hanging on just long enough to stop Yeo from playing the ball and giving his side one last chance for the visitors, and with that Queensland’s quest to regain the Origin shield began triumphantly.
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The Maroons ran away in the second half after taking advantage of a controversial moment just after half-time when captain Daly Cherry-Evans sliced through the New South Wales defense in a scrum.
It looked like Blues prop Junior Paulo had been held back in the scrum but the try was cleared and a Valentine Holmes conversion extended the Maroons’ lead to 12-4.
“The natives are restless,” said rugby league immortal Andrew Johns on the cover of Nine.
“To say the least,” added caller Mat Thompson.
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Queensland extended their lead to 16-4 in the 54th minute when Holmes crossed on the left edge.
Munster’s invaluable reaction to Origin I honor
The Cowboys ace started the game at center left but moved to the left wing when Xavier Coates suffered an ankle injury in the 28th minute – and the former Shark would have made a decent man of the game.
Holmes racked up 156 yards of running and a line break, and he produced tremendous effort when he ran to clear a James Tedesco kick in the 70th minute, denying a potential try from Nathan Cleary in the process.
The Blues’ dwindling hopes were given a boost in the 72nd minute when second rower Cameron Murray burst in on a Jarome Luai short ball and scored, NSW reducing the deficit to 16-10.
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The heroic Holmes saves the Maroons
But the Maroons held firm as the Blues launched several full-throttle raids into Queensland’s 20-yard area in the final minutes of the game.
Eventual man of the match Cameron Munster had a standout moment as NSW threatened deep into Queensland territory in the 74th minute, stealing the ball from debutant Stephen Crichton.
NSW will attempt to align the series at 1-1 in Perth on June 26.
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State of Origin I 2022 in pictures: All the color of the Blues v Maroons opener