NSW win Origin opener with rookie squad
A New South Wales side featuring 11 debutants took first blood in Australia’s State of Origin rugby league series with an impressive 22-12 win over Queensland in Melbourne on Wednesday.
The Blues, fielding their most inexperienced Origin squad in 34 years, scored four tries to two and fought back after trailing 12-8 minutes into the second half.
Led by man-of-the-match fullback James Tedesco and stand-off James Maloney, NSW scored two tries in three minutes to swing the momentum their way early in the second half and finish off the job before 87,122 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
It was a triumph for former Australia captain Brad Fittler, who took over this season as the Blues’ coach with Queensland having won the past three series and 11 of the last 12.
It was NSW’s fourth win over Queensland in five Origin matches staged at the MCG.
NSW scored first in the 22nd minute off a sharp Damien Cook break from dummy-half with fullback Tedesco racing clear off a Maloney pass.
Queensland looked under pressure but were given a lifeline when winger Valentine Holmes latched on to a wayward Maloney pass and sprinted 80m to score an intercept and reduce NSW’s lead to 8-6 at half-time.
The Maroons, with Greg Inglis leading the way, hit the front minutes after the resumption with a Ben Hunt grubber kick finding winger Dane Gagai in the corner.
But just when NSW looked in trouble they scored two quick tries through debutant centre Latrell Mitchell and winger Tom Trbojevic.
Maloney’s sideline conversion put NSW ahead 18-12 and the Blues sealed victory when Tedesco beat off five tackles before winger Josh Addo-Carr scored in the corner for the clincher.
The Maroons were playing without retired greats Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston, while Test fullback Billy Slater withdrew earlier in the week with a hamstring injury.
Queensland will now have to beat NSW in the second match in Sydney on June 24 to keep this year’s series alive to the third and final match in Brisbane on July 11.
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