Channel 9 roasted in Origin snub
NEW South Wales has delivered a hammer blow to Queensland at the MCG to take a 1-0 lead in the 2018 State of Origin series.
The Blues scored three unanswered tries to fightback from 12-8 down mid-way through the second half to blow the Maroons off the turf.
Tries to Lattrell Mitchell, Tom Trbojevic and Josh Addo-Carr saw NSW charge to a 22-12 win that has given the Blues a chance to win the series when they return to Sydney for Game 2 at ANZ Stadium on Sunday, June 24.
James Tedesco was named man of the match after producing a freakish 16 tackle breaks and 224m carrying the Steededn while Blues hooker Damien Cook and inspirational Queensland captain Greg Inglis were also mighty for their respective teams.
Commentators blow up over NSW-Channel 9 conspiracy
RUGBY League commentators have erupted over blatant referee blunders that were swept under the carpet by Channel 9 to the benefit of NSW.
The Blues were the better team and deserved a hard-fought 22-12 victory at the MCG, but commentators, including former Maroons skipper Cameron Smith and NSW legend Paul Gallen have admitted Brad Fittler's team benefited from two "turning point" referee decisions.
Both decisions were barely mentioned on Channel 9's live telecast - but they were picked up by fans on social media, who were screaming for justice as the Blues ran away to a 1-0 series lead.
The first decision that has enraged NRL commentators came at the moment Queensland appeared in control early in the second half after scoring a 42nd minute try to Dane Gagai.
Minutes later the Queensland winger was carrying the ball out of his own end - only for the ball to become dislodged from his grasp in a tackle with two NSW defenders, including forward Angus Crichton.
The Blues rookie appeared to dig his hand into Gagai's injured hand. Gagai looked expectantly at the referees - but the spilt ball was ruled a loose carry.
Smith told Channel 9 after the game the decision was a "turning point".
NSW went on to score the last three tries of the game.
"I thought Queensland in the first half finished stronger than NSW," Smith told Channel 9.
"It looked like they got caught in the blocks early. They certainly finished stronger. I thought it was going to be the same way in the second half where they scored early points. NSW really only came back off a call where Dane Gagai dropped the ball. That call seemed to be the turning point right there.
"NSW went bang, bang with two tries and really never looked back."
I still can’t get over how Crichton wasn’t called for a blatant strip on Gagai #origin— Melanie Dinjaski (@MelanieDinjaski) June 6, 2018
“But he got away with it” Rabs says of Crichton, well that’s the bloody story of the night innit #origin— Melanie Dinjaski (@MelanieDinjaski) June 6, 2018
Commentators were far more furious over the blatant forward pass that led to Josh Addo-Carr's match-sealing try in the 68th minute.
I wonder how different that game would have been had the penalty been called on Crichton instead of Gagai. Qld all the momentum, foot on throat. Next minute try NSW, game changed!— Matt Jackson (@Mjackson_racing) June 6, 2018
Addo-Carr finished off a sweet linebreak from Blues star James Tedesco that went through the hands of James Maloney.
The Blues five-eighth's cut-out ball to Addo-Carr appeared to travel forward.
Replays showed the ball sailed almost 4m forward, but there was no mention of the infringement on the Channel 9 telecast until Gallen laughed about the pass going unnoticed after the game.
"Tedesco once again through tired forwards up through the middle and carved them up," he said.
"Jimmy Maloney once again threw a pass that might have been forward. We will let that one go."
Many commentators were not just happy to let it go.
Not one mention of the Maloney forward pass for that last try by the Ch 9 commentary team. Not one. To be fair, hard to pick it through the blue Pom poms they have been waving all game. #Origin— Greg Davis (@GregDavis_cmail) June 6, 2018
Blues coach Brad Fittler was actually more critical than Maroons coach Kevin Walters of the referees' performance in their post-game press conferences.
Not much of a forward pass in the State of Origin...pic.twitter.com/BrCMYSTkAN— Sporting Index (@sportingindex) June 6, 2018
Walters said his team simply has to learn from the 4-1 penalty count that went against his team.
Fittler said he didn't think there were many controversial referee moments.
"I thought they did a good job," Fittler said.
"Watching the Queensland guys come off the line, they're just really good at slowing us down and coming off their line. They've been doing it for a long time. They're really good at it.
"In the past it's been obvious, but tonight as a team they did a really good job of it. I'd love to get our team to do that. I thought their back five or back three got out of their end a lot easier than ours.
"I don't know if there were many decisions that the referees had to really call on.
"There was the (Dane) Gagai one. The Jimmy Maloney pass was a fifty-fifty that went against us. Outside of that it was pretty clear cut. There weren't many questionable decisions."
Despite the referee controversies it was impossible to see the result going any other way after the Blues roared back to life in the second half.
The Baby Blues - boasting 11 debutants - came of age against a Maroons side without retired greats, ex-skipper Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk, in front of 87,122 fans.
NSW were the greenest Origin side in 37 years after unveiling an unprecedented list of debutants under rookie coach Brad Fittler.
But what they lacked in experience they made up with their much vaunted backline firepower led by a man of the match performance by fullback James Tedesco who scored the opening try.
"I knew we had a young team but all the boys on debut really dug in deep," Tedesco said.
"It was awesome to get this win in front of this massive crowd. The boys just hung in there.
"The momentum shifted a few times but our boys were awesome."
The result capped a horror week for the rebuilding Maroons.
The signs were ominous for Queensland after a chaotic lead-up, losing veteran fullback Billy Slater (hamstring) and sweating until the last minute for the availability of winger Dane Gagai (finger).
They were already without 151 Origin games' worth of experience. And their luck didn't change on Wednesday as the most inexperienced Maroons side in more than a decade could not stop NSW registering Origin win No.50 - albeit six years after Queensland had notched the same landmark.
The Blues - boasting just 39 games of Origin experience - will hope they have started a new Origin era after the Maroons claimed 11 of the last 12 series. "I can't fault all the effort, it has been terrific. I think that's what Origin is all about - key moments," new Queensland skipper Greg Inglis said. "(But) little things cost us in the second half.
"All I want them to do now is go back and represent their club footy really well, forget about this one." Inglis did his best to step up in the Big Three's absence, laying on some inspirational tackles at the first Origin game held in Melbourne in three years. And for a while it looked like being enough.
Inglis' 27th minute hit on Tom Trbojevic gave the Maroons a lift before winger Valentine Holmes scored an 85m intercept try a minute later to cut the deficit to 8-6 at halftime.
And Queensland threatened to pull off another unlikely win when they led 12-8 after Gagai scored in the 43rd minute.
But there was no denying the Blues who finally lived up to bookies' favouritism as Latrell Mitchell (48th), Tom Trbojevic (50th) and Josh Addo-Carr (70th) crossed in the second half.
It could have been worse - centre Mitchell and wing sensation Addo-Carr were denied tries.
Queensland must regroup before game two on June 24 in Sydney.
- with AAP
Blues show incredible heart in gutsy fightback
NSW overturned momentum and 12 years of Queensland Origin dominance to produce a memorable fightback that stunned Queensland.
The Blues clawed their way back from four points down to score the last three tries of the game and runaway with a 22-12 win.
The Blues could have won by more, but were denied two late tries to Josh Addo-Carr and Lattrell Mitchell by the video referee.
None of it seemed to matter as the full-time siren sounded with the Blues in front. The young NSW players showed pure elation on the hooter - as the emotion of their gutsy performance boiled over.
James Tedesco was one of the most excited Blues stars and was named man of the match for his consistent ability to break the line and set-up tries for the Blues.
Ben Hunt gives Queensland one last chance
Ben Hunt struck a nice fourty-twenty kick in the 75th minute to give desperate Queensland one final chance in good field position. The Maroons were unable to convert their field position into points when Cameron Munster kicked the ball dead when under pressure from the NSW defence.
'That is an Origin pearler'
James Tedesco set-up a phenomenal match-winner for NSW he burst into the open field and rode a thumping tackle from Michael Morgan before still finding the balance to throw a sweet pass out the back to the waiting NSW backline.
Tedesco shrugged off two defenders and then found himself one-on-one with Morgan. The Cowboys star hit the Roosters fullback hard, but wasn't able to put him on the ground.
Tedesco got a nice pass away as he was falling to the deck.
From there the Blues spread the ball wide and allowed winger Josh Addo-Carr to get on the outside of the Queensland defence.
He dived over in the corner to put NSW ahead 22-12 after 70 minutes.
Channel 9 commentator Ray Warren said: "That is an Origin Pearler. Look at the awareness of James Tedesco as he bounces out of another tackle. Michael Morgan comes and almost hits him. He spins his head around and finds the outside support".
Queensland outmuscle NSW
Queensland forced Nathan Cleary in-goal to earn a repeat set on the back of a ten-minute period of physical dominance.
It came after Cleary was two-minutes earlier forced to make a try-saving tackle on Greg Inglis in the open-field, grabbing the Rabbitohs superstar around his ankles.
The Blues successfully defended the next set, but the Maroons have been able to camp in the Blues' half of the field.
Maroons captain Greg Inglis was leading from the front as Queensland tried to overpower the Blues.
Trbojevic takes a blinder to put Blues in front
James Maloney had his hands in a second NSW try in the space of four minutes when he kicked a perfectly weighted bomb for Blues rookie Tom Trbojevic.
Trbojevic's try put the Blues ahead 18-12 in the 51st minute after he and Valentine Holmes went to the air on the try-line to compete for Maloney's bomb.
Trbojevic stripped the ball right out of Holmes' hands and then fell over the line.
It came on the back of a darting linebreak from James Tedesco which allowed Maloney and Trbojevic to catch the Maroons' left edge unprepared.
Blues hit back through Lattrell Mitchell
NSW tied the scores in the 49th minute when Lattrell Mitchell darted through a hole on the Maroons' try line.
Ben Hunt committed to rushing in to try and tackle Boyd Cordner and created a hole in the Maroons line when the pass went to fullback James Tedesco out the back.
Tedsco then put Mitchell into a hole with a nice held-up short ball before Mitchell took contact from Hunt and Dane Gagai on the try line, but still pushed his way over.
Maloney missed the conversion to leave the scores locked at 12-12 after 49 minutes.
Queensland hit the front after second Maloney howler
Another James Maloney howler allowed Queensland the field position which saw them hit the front in the 44th minute.
Maloney threw a forward pass to Lattrell Mitchell when he wasn't under any pressure on a fifth tackle play.
Queensland scored on the next set of six when Ben Hunt delivered another perfectly weighted kick into the in-goal.
Dane Gagai was able to pounce on the ball in his foot race with Josh Addo-Carr.
Valentine Holmes also slotted the conversion from the sideline to give Queensland a 12-8 lead.
Gus says Maloney shocker turned first half on its head
Phil Gould says James Maloney's intercepted pass changed the direction of the first half and allowed Queensland back into the game.
"I think that first half changed on that pass," Gould told Channel 9.
"That play. NSW were doing really well inside passes, turning the ball back inside, looking to go through Queensland. And then tried to go around them on a set play and Valentine Holmes picked it off and took it the other way. I thought probably the last 10 minutes of the first half Queensland started to really look dominant."
Queensland denied repeat set
Queensland was denied a repeat set by the video referee when Dane Gagai was ruled to have knocked on in the in-goal.
Ben Hunt's perfect kick to the wing appeared to be slapped over the dead ball line by winger Josh Addo-Carr, but replays appeared to show Addo-Carr's push rebounded off Gagai's hands before it sailed out of play.
The decision ensured NSW would still lead 8-6 at half time.
Queensland hit back after ugly Maloney mistake
Valentine Holmes pinched a James Maloney floater and sprinted 80m to score under the posts.
Maloney's floating cut-out ball to James Roberts went straight to the chest of Holmes.
Despite the manic speed of Roberts and Josh Addo-Carr, Holmes was never in danger of reaching the try line.
His intercept try cut the Blues' lead to 8-6 after 28minutes.
Blues legend Peter Sterling said it was easy to see the intercept unfolding and was surprised Maloney still decided to throw his shocking pass.
"You could see that unfolding," Sterling told Channel 9.
"A couple of short passes, and then the wide pass. That's always dangerous. A long pass basically without looking and Valentine Holmes on the Harvey Norman replay couldn't believe his luck. Took it on the chest, 80m in front. Just what Queensland needed."
'It's a massive hit'
Greg Inglis put a bone-jarring hit on Blues winger Tom Trbojevic, triggering the first melee of the game.
Inglis ran in and put a crunching hit under the ribs of the Manly star - but was ruled to have been a mile offside.
His violent driving tackle saw Blues players run in to push him off Trbojevic - but the melee went no further than that.
'It's a massive hit," Phil Gould told Channel 9.
Cook creates super Blues try
Damien Cook took off out of dummy half and orchestrated the first try of the game.
Cook split the tired Maroons defence and then gave a sweet offload to James Maloney.
Maloney was then able to find James Tedesco backing up on the inside to beat Maroons' fullback Michael Morgan.
Tedesco streaked away to score under the posts.
It put NSW ahead 8-0 after 22mins.
Replays showed Josh McGuire's failure to get back onside created the hole for Cook to rush through.
Blues take the lead
James Maloney kicked NSW ahead with a simple penalty conversion from right in front of the sticks.
NSW was awarded the penalty when Michael Morgan and Dylan Napa held down Nathan Cleary for too long.
Maloney's kick put NSW ahead 2-0 after 18 minutes.
Queensland legend Darren Lockyer said the Maroons would be glad the Blues didn't try and press on for a try.
"As a Queenslander, I was happy they took the two," Lockyer said in commentary for Channel 9.
"Queensland are getting tired. Blues are completing their sets and putting pressure on the Maroons. Big 10 minutes for the Queenslanders right now."
Queensland forward Gavin Cooper complained to referee Gerard Sutton over his interference on a kick from Damien Cook into the Maroons' in-goal.
Cooper was forced to dive on the kick after it had bounced off the whistlle-blower and forced a dop-out.
Sutton was heard telling Cooper his interference would not have changed the result and a goal-line drop-out was awarded to the Blues, despite Cooper angrily declaring Cook's kick would have gone dead.
Munster try denied by early penalty
Queensland dominated the opening exchanges and enjoyed good early field position.
Camped in the NSW red zone, Cameron Munster was penalised for running around his own player on the left edge on a play he would have gone on to score.
Munster went on to kick a grubber into the in-goal and would have scored because NSW fullback James Tedesco was nowhere to be seen.
It left the scores still deadlocked at 0-0 after eight minutes.
Origin anthem breaks with tradition
NSW and Queensland lined up facing each other during the Australian national anthem.
In a break with tradition, Greg Inglis and Boyd Cordner eyeballed each other during Advance Australia Fair before getting stuck into the start of play.
King Wally's pessimistic prediction
QUEENSLAND rugby league legend Wally Lewis says a Queensland victory in Game 1 at the MCG would be the "biggest upset in State of Origin history".
The Maroons cult hero declared he is pessimistic ahead of the series opener, admitting the speed in the NSW backline concerns him.
With Queensland missing Billy Slater, Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston, some bookmakers have Queensland at their highest price ever offered for Queensland in head to head betting.
Lewis says it will be a famous result if Kevin Walters can lead the team to a win in Melbourne.
"If the Maroons win this one it would be the biggest upset in State of Origin history," Lewis told Macquarie Sports Radio.
"They are regarded as not much chance at all. I've seen some underdogs get up previously, especially Queenslanders, but they will need to be at their best to win this one."
Meanwhile, Queensland great Paul Vautin says Queensland can exploit NSW's inexperience after coach Brad Fittler selected 11 debutants for the series opener.
"You blood that many first up in a team, they're not going to know about the combinations or each other. That takes a lot of time," he said.
"It's unknown territory for both teams tonight."
Peking Duk rocks Origin
Melbourne was left impressed by the pre-game State of Origin entertainment by rockers Peking Duk.
Maroons confirm Morgan's move to fullback
Queensland has confirmed Cowboys star Michael Morgan will play at fullback as the replacement for injured star Billy Slater.
Morgan's move from the bench to the custodian role has seen Broncos playmaker Anthony Milford slide onto the bench ahead of Knights sensation Kalyn Ponga.
Ben Hunt and Cameron Munster will start in the halves for the Maroons.
NSW has confirmed they will have no late changes to their 17 announced last week.
The Blues will start with David Klemmer and Reagan Campbell-Gillard in the front row.
Jack de Belin, Jake Trbojevic, Angus Crichton and Tyrone Peachey will start on the bench.
Gus labels Fittler selections a 'gamble'
NRL guru Phil Gould has labelled Brad Fittler's selection of 11 Origin debutants a massive "gamble".
"It is a big gamble - 11 players on debut and it is exciting and unpredictable," Gould told Channel 9.
"Huge challenge, monumental task to come to a ground they have never played on before and get it right. They will be most vulnerable in the first 20 minutes. If they can settle into that part of the game hopefully the talent can come to the fore."
NSW players walk to MCG without incident
NSW players arrived at the MCG 90 minutes before kick off after walking to the venue from their team hotel.
It is the first time NSW has not taken a bus to the MCG, but coach Brad Fittler's left-field idea proved to be a masterstroke as the Blues avoided Melbourne's notorious peak-hour traffic.
Queensland's injuries: 'Never seen anything like it'
Queensland assistant coach Trevor Gillmeister has declared he has never seen anything like Queensland's injury nightmare during their Game 1 camp.
The former Maroons hard-man said injuries to Billy Slater and Dane Gagai - as well as niggling injury concerns for star halfback Ben Hunt - has been unlike anything he has seen in State of Origin.
Gagai has already been confirmed a starter for the series opener with a fractured finger - having already received pain-killing injections in his left hand.
"I've never seen anything like this, the lead up to this game - the injuries we've had," Gillmeister told Channel 7.
"I've seen injuries during a game, but not like this leading into a game. This has been quite amazing, but they've all taken it in their stride and they're ready to go."
Queensland's big injury news
Finally cleared of injury, Queensland are set to cause some pain of their own with some "fireworks" in Wednesday's State of Origin opener after claiming NSW's Reagan Campbell-Gillard had fired up their forward pack.
After a tumultuous build-up, the Maroons were breathing a little easier on Wednesday with star winger Dane Gagai a confirmed starter for Origin I at the MCG after being cleared of a finger fracture.
Queensland appeared in disarray when Gagai suffered a compound dislocation at Tuesday's match eve training run at the MCG barely 24 hours after veteran fullback Billy Slater pulled out with a hamstring complaint. While Queensland assistant coach Josh Hannay admitted Gagai may need a painkilling injection, he confirmed last year's Wally Lewis Medal winner as player of the series would take his place after X-rays cleared him of a break. "I would be surprised if he didn't need an injection for the pain," Hannay said after the Maroons' traditonal team walk.
"When he went off it was a bit of a shock. (But) this morning he has woken up fine and he will be fit to play.
"He's got a sore finger - it's not the end of the world. He will handle it." Gagai kept his left hand firmly in his jacket throughout the team walk, refusing to show TV cameras his damaged finger.
Hannay held no fears that Gagai would be targeted and exposed in defence. But he did issue a warning to the Blues pack that there would be "fireworks" in Origin I thanks to Campbell-Gillard.
The Blues giant clearly ruffled feathers in the Maroons camp when he claimed: "I can't wait to get out there and start killing some people".
"He has to live with what he said," Hannay said of the prop's comment. Asked if he expected fireworks, Hannay said: "I think there could be. "There has been a bit of chat south of the border and we certainly have some firebrands in our pack - I would not be surprised if a real physical contest erupts.
"Our forward pack always seems to be underrated. I think our forwards like that - they will meet that challenge head on." And he tipped Sydney Roosters prop Dylan Napa to lead the Maroons assault. "Dylan is a real intimidating, physical type of front rower. He loves these occasions, the ferocity of State of Origin - it will bring out the best in him," Hannay said.
Hannay was also confident Cronulla's Valentine Holmes would handle goalkicking duties despite not holding that role at his NRL club.
"Not being a regular goalkicker I wasn't aware how good (Holmes) was," said Hannay, a former goalkicker for North Queensland.
"He strikes the ball as good as anyone I have seen. For Val it will be just about handling the pressure," he said.
Smith's advice for McCullough
Cameron Smith has explained his decision to retire from representative football so close to State of Origin and says he'd be letting Queensland down if he played on.
The longtime Test and Queensland captain stunned the rugby league world three weeks ago when he announced his exit, leaving him to focus solely on NRL duties with Melbourne.
Some have questioned the timing, so close to Wednesday's Origin series opener opener, and whether that was right for the Queensland team.
Smith revealed his mind was pretty well made up before the season began but said he needed more time to confirm it.
"I probably had made the decision before I started this year,' Smith told reporters at a pre-Origin I lunch in Melbourne on Wednesday. "But I just wanted to make sure that it was the right decision. "I wanted to play a few games which I think I said after the World Cup when I was asked whether I'd continue playing rep football.
"I'd have my time away over the off-season and then get back into training and see how I started in the first month or six weeks." Smith - who holds the record for most Origin games and wins, as well as seven man-of-the-match awards, wanted to see if he felt the urge to return to Origin camp.
Midway through last month, he made the call.
"It just wasn't there," Smith said.
"So playing 42 matches and being involved in Origin for 15 years, it was the right time for me to step away and I really did feel that if I chose to play on, I would've been letting my teammates down.
"I would've been letting my state down, because I wouldn't have been fully committed to it." Smith was a notable figure in the Maroons' captain's run at the MCG on Tuesday, where he spoke to coach Kevin Walters and also gave successor Andrew McCullough some advice before his debut.
However Smith insisted he still felt comfortable he had made the right decision.
"There was no feeling of jealousy of not being out there training or having that Maroons jersey on, running in a captain's training session," he said. "I felt at ease and really happy to be there to say g'day to the team, wish them good luck and watch them go through their final paces."