Origin Game 1: Player Ratings & Talking Points
- Kalyn Ponga 9/10
What a player he is. Made replacing Queensland's greatest fullback Billy Slater look easy. Unafraid to take a hard run early in sets, he had Suncorp on their feet whenever he attacked the Blues’ line. Two-try assists including a killer ball which Darren Lockyer in his prime would have been proud of capped off an amazing debut performance in the number 1 Maroon jersey.
- Corey Oates 6.5/10
133 running metres, a spectacular put-down for a try, a spectacular attempted put-down for an eventual no try… it was an eventful night for the giant winger. He didn’t quite nail his line-breaking kick returns but was solid.
- Michael Morgan 6/10
Not a natural centre but did a job particularly in his defence. Went close to scoring in the second half. Queensland is a better team with Morgan in it, no matter where he’s actually playing.
- Will Chambers 7/10
A redemptive night for the star centre who unquestionably got the better of his nemesis Latrell Mitchell, including a brutal hit in the 35th minute. He could well have had two tries to himself in the first half alone with better finishing but he was a major nuisance for the Blues all night.
- Dane Gagai 9/10
The Origin specialist. Gagai has 10 tries in his last 91 NRL matches. He also now has 11 tries in his last 10 Origin games. His intercept try turned the game on its head, his second try iced it. Yet there was so much more to the winger’s game – his 18 runs were the highest for his team, he made zero handling errors and safely defused seven kicks. What a performance from the Souths back.
- Cameron Munster 8/10
Loves the big stage and recovered well from his crucial tackle miss early on. He split the Blues line open and always had their defenders on edge when he had ball in hand. He controlled the Maroons’ run game and created time and space for Ponga and Cherry-Evans to weave their ball-playing magic.
- Daly Cherry-Evans 8.5/10
Just about a perfect kicking game from Queensland’s leader. Relished his captaincy responsibility and stood up well to constant Blues traffic in defence.
- Jai Arrow 6.5/10
Quite early on, Arrow was a changed man in his second stint, increasing his involvement and making his presence felt in defence.
- Ben Hunt 7.5/10
Another Queenslander out of position but still providing reliability. Hunt didn’t overplay his hand out of hooker, which was of huge benefit to his side’s attacking balance.
- Josh Papalii 7.5/10
Set the Maroons’ tempo early on with a blockbusting run inside four minutes. Defensively perfect with 28 tackles to 0 misses.
- Felise Kaufusi 7.5/10
Quickly becoming Mr Reliable for his state, Kaufusi can always be depended on for dangerous edge running and a willingness to offload. Was an unsung hero out there.
- Matt Gillett 7/10
Quietly impressive in his return to Origin after a broken neck. Got through his defensive duties without issue, didn’t receive many chances to run, however.
- Josh McGuire 8/10
Helped turn the game’s tide in the second half with his aggression. Never afraid to niggle, the lock was a powerhouse in defence and earned 117m with ball in hand.
- Moses Mbye 3/10
Only got a cameo late on, still made 10 tackles in his eight-minute stint.
- Dylan Napa 7.5/10
Made a significant contribution off the bench and could well get a starting promotion for game two. Unlucky not to have scored.
- Joe Ofahengaue 6.5/10
Was on track for a higher score until a knee injury ended his Origin debut early. Was a handful in attack – a great sign for a young prop wanting to earn the tough metres for his side.
- David Fifita 5.5/10
Only got 25 minutes but still racked up 12 hitups for 85 metres in that time – a bright Origin future for the workhorse awaits.
NEW SOUTH WALES
- James Tedesco 8.5/10
Tried his heart out for a beaten side. He did Munster like a dinner to create the Blues’ first try and constantly menaced the Maroons with his twinkle toes. Handling errors crept in late on but it was a stellar performance from the fullback.
- Nick Cotric 6/10
Hampered by a knee injury to limit his night, Cotric struggled to make a dent in his Origin debut but didn’t let anyone down when he did get the ball, totalling 104 metres on the night. Queensland did target him in defence however to some effect.
- Latrell Mitchell 5/10
The superstar centre has had better nights. Will Chambers convincingly got the better of him, he conceded two penalties including a professional foul which the Blues never recovered from.
- Josh Morris 7.5/10
The veteran centre made a welcome return to Origin, scoring the first try and being his usual reliable self in defence. A great selection from NSW.
- Josh Addo-Carr 6/10
Pulled off a superb try-saver on Will Chambers in the 30th minute but defensively never looked convincing and struggled to use his pace regularly in attack.
- Cody Walker 5/10
A fairly anonymous performance from the Souths pivot. Walker struggled to assert himself into the game, to the point coach Fittler voluntarily took him off before the hour mark. He then was re-introduced shortly afterwards but it wasn’t the debut performance expected of the NRL’s leading try scorer.
- Nathan Cleary 6/10
Cleary’s kicking game – particularly in the first half – was impressive but with his side chasing points, Cleary seemingly took a back seat to the likes of Tedesco and Cook. May need some big club performances to guarantee his selection for game 2.
- David Klemmer 8.5/10
One of the best on ground. Born for Origin, the prop set the game’s tone in his first stint and didn’t miss a tackle the whole game. NSW’s enforcer and spiritual leader.
- Damien Cook 9/10
There wasn’t much more Cook could have done to get his side home. His side’s best player, an absolute menace with ball in hand while defensively Queensland couldn’t slow him down. A joy to watch him.
- Paul Vaughan 7/10
Like Klemmer was brilliant early on but unlike Klemmer didn’t quite match those heights in the second half. Eventually didn’t crack his usual 100 running metres and will look to bounce back in Perth.
- Boyd Cordner 7.5/10
Worked his backside off for his state. The skipper was a particular threat ball in hand but did miss the most tackles for the team. His leadership and calmness remain priceless, however.
- Tyson Frizell 6/10
A quiet performance from the Dragons backrower. He struggled to make an impact on an edge and was upstaged by those around him.
- Jake Trbojevic 7.5/10
A late try was a fitting reward for the workhorse lock. Had a lengthy break mid-game but made the most of his stints either side including 126 run metres.
- Jack Wighton 2/10
Not a great debut – thrown on for Cody Walker, Wighton tried hard but didn’t create magic – instead, forcing an intercept to Dane Gagai which swung the game to the opposition.
- Payne Haas 6/10
A mixed debut for the Bronco teen. He started off a bundle of energy but Queensland started to exploit him in defence as his stint wore on, his soft penalty against David Fifita was a momentum changer in particular.
- Cameron Murray 7/10
One rushed play-the-ball error aside, Murray looked at ease at Origin in debut. He made 25 tackles without fuss and ended up creating a try for Trbojevic late on to give the Blues hope of a miracle comeback.
- Angus Crichton 6.5/10
Has the longest stint of any Blues interchange players but didn’t make the attacking impact Murray did. Was solid in defence however to rack up more tackles (37) than any other Blues forward aside from hooker Damien Cook.
FIVE BIG TALKING POINTS
NEW SOUTH WALES HAVE A MOUNTAIN TO CLIMB
73% of Game 1 winners go on to claim the series – New South Wales will need to defy history as they head to Perth.
After a solid opening 30 minutes, the Blues quickly found themselves chasing the game and were holding on for grim life while the Maroons took control of the game. If it wasn’t for desperate scrambling defence from James Tedesco and Josh Addo-Carr, the Blues would have found themselves trailing far earlier than they eventually did.
Their attack stalled and couldn’t handle the intensity of the aggressive Maroons’ defensive line. The last time NSW successfully retained their Origin shield was 2005 – it’s hardly a positive omen for a state still feeling the effects of Queensland’s recent Origin domination.
THE MAROONS FORWARDS LEAD THE WAY
Queensland’s resurgence after trailing 8-0 after 21 minutes came off their first bench rotation.
Dylan Napa and Joe Ofahengaue made a significant contribution in shifting the middle momentum away from NSW props Dave Klemmer and Paul Vaughan’s initial contribution. Napa himself was unlucky not to score but more importantly, he took Origin debutant Ofahengaue under his wing and made the Broncos rookie feel at home in the game’s most intense cauldron.
With the game teetering early in the second half, veteran lock Josh McGuire increased the niggle and aggression to great effect, while Josh Papalii was a rock in defence, reeling off 28 straight tackles without a miss. Coach Kevin Walters got his forward interchange spot on – the Maroons never missed a beat in the middle and never looked tired at any stage.
COOK AND TEDESCO SUPERB ONCE AGAIN
As bad as things might feel currently for New South Wales, they’ll be far, far worse if anything happens to James Tedesco and Damien Cook between now and game 2.
Tedesco was brilliant in creating a try and running for a team-high 245 metres, often looking the only New South Wales back capable of creating a moment of magic. He made two handling errors late in the second half but it shouldn’t detract from another magnificent performance in the Blues jersey.
Cook meanwhile somehow continues to improve his game, a monumental effort for somebody who is comfortably the league’s best player in his position. Cook looked a more convincing playmaker than either of his halves (more on this shortly) and perfectly chose his spots to attack a solitary Maroon marker. An injury to either player and it becomes very difficult to see how NSW could recover.
QUEENSLAND’S PLAYMAKERS A CLASS ABOVE
They took a little time to find their footing but when they did, Cameron Munster and Daly Cherry-Evans seized control and never let it go.
Cherry-Evans thrived as his team’s leader, to the point of being willing to take the hard runs out of the Maroons’ own end to help give his outside backs a break. The halves had a perfect balance – Munster with 52 possessions, DCE with 55. Munster dominated the running aspect with 127 running metres and a scintillating line break in the first half while Cherry-Evans pulled the strings, assisting in three line breaks himself.
Their domination also allowed superstar fullback Kalyn Ponga to pick and choose his own spots to strike, as he did in devastating fashion later in the second half. It was a polished performance and a masterclass in how to control a match at the highest level.
NEW SOUTH WALES MEANWHILE NEED TO BITE THE BULLET
It was a night to forget for not only New South Wales’s halves but coach Brad Fittler as well.
Cody Walker was anonymous in the opening hour, to the point Fittler made a bold move to take him off for Jack Wighton. Fittler was then forced to recall Walker minutes later and it’s hard to envision the substitutions did his confidence much good. Wighton then proceeded to throw the game-changing intercept for Dane Gagai and from there New South Wales were chasing a lost cause.
Halfback Nathan Cleary though will come in for the most scrutiny. Despite being on 21, the Panthers star was the senior half and instead failed to influence his side’s attack at all. When his side was chasing points late on, Boyd Cordner and Wighton found themselves having to rush kicks on the last play with Cleary not receiving the ball. When Cleary did get the ball late in sets it wasn’t to any effect.
Fittler now has a monumental call to make – his halves failed and with Luke Keary unfit, does Fittler keep the faith with them or does he look elsewhere to Adam Reynolds and, dare we mention it, Mitchell Pearce?
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