The New South Wales Blues have taken Game 1 of the State of Origin series, defeating the Queensland Maroons by ten points.
After leading by two at halftime, the Blues managed to hang on, taking victory with tries to Tom Trbojevic and Josh Addo-Carr in the last half hour sealing the deal for the team with 11 debutants.
New South Wales Blues 22
Queensland Maroons 12
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One of the most highly-anticipated State of Origin series in recent memory gets underway at the MCG tonight, with the New South Wales Blues and Queensland Maroons resuming Australia’s biggest sporting rivalry. Join The Roar for live scores and coverage from 8pm (AEST).
The intrigue around this series has been enormous, with both states turning a new page and entering a different era.
The Blues, under new coach Brad Fittler, will have 11 debutants playing. It brings with it a huge risk of inexperience, but a fresh opportunity for a state which has lost 11 of the last 12 series.
On the other side of the coin, the Maroons have a new captain and none of their big four. Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith have all drifted into representative retirement, but the shock of Billy Slater missing out came at the eleventh hour.
Just two days out from kick-off, the superstar fullback was withdrawn from the match due to injury, with Michael Morgan set to replace him at fullback. Greg Inglis is the man taking over from Smith as captain of the Queenslanders.
Coach Kevin Walters could yet have a greater juggling act on his hands, with the deck chairs potentially needing to be shifted if Dane Gagai isn’t fit to play after the utility back suffered a compound dislocation of his finger during the captains run yesterday.
Still, the Maroons have bigger issues to face than injuries.
On paper, their forward pack could well be monstered. With Matt Scott overlooked due to poor form and an out of sorts Dylan Napa, who has only averaged 70 metres per game this year, playing the role of enforcer, the Blues could have their number up front.
Reagan Campbell-Gillard and a barnstorming David Klemmer, who has been a tackle-breaking machine in 2018, will lead the charge, with Paul Vaughan set to make his debut off the bench.
Vaughan is joined by Dragons teammate Jack de Belin, while Jake Trbojevic has been shuffled back to the bench. Boyd Cordner and Tyson Frizell will also be hoping to have their way in the second row with Gavin Cooper and Felise Kaufusi.
The real battle though will be at hooker. X-Factor Damien Cook is one of the NRL’s form players and will be expected to play most of the 80 minutes for the Blues, while Andrew McCullough will be at his usual defensive best for the Maroons.
If Cook and the forwards can spark a platform, then life will be a lot easier for James Maloney and Nathan Cleary, who will then take pleasure in setting up the aggressive backline players like Latrell Mitchell, James Roberts and the competition’s equal leading try-scorer in Josh Addo-Carr.
There have been three Origins at the MCG, with the Blues winning two of them.
The Blues should be too strong here. Their forward pack is simply too good and while there are issues on the edges in defence, they will run over the top for the win.
Blues by 4.
Be sure to join The Roar for State of Origin live scores, commentary and highlights for Game 1 from 8pm (AEST) and don’t forget to drop a comment in the section below.