A FLURRY of punches aimed at the head of Queensland’s Nate Myles was described as “a great Origin moment” by New South Wales coach Laurie Daley – but is likely to earn his captain Paul Gallen a suspension.
After losing seven consecutive State of Origin series, the Blues scored a gripping 14-6 win in the opening match of the 2013 series in front of 80,380 fans at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium last night.
The flashpoint came a minute before halftime, when prop Gallen hit Myles – last year’s player of the series – with a swinging arm and then landed a series of blows on the Gold Coast forward.
Gallen later said the Blues were “sick of being bullied” while first-time coach Daley commented: “That’s a great Origin moment as far as I’m concerned.
“They’ve been pushed around and they’ve done it tough for a long period.”
Gallen said: “Nate’s been the dominant Origin forward of the past few series … I don’t have to tell you some of the things he’s done to our players.
But the match review committee saw things differently, charging Gallen with grade two striking, which will result in a one match ban with an early guilty plea or two games with an unsuccessful challenge.
The star of the game for NSW was back rower Luke Lewis, who has battled injury in recent weeks and was consigned to bed by a virus in the two days leading up the game.
By comparison, Queensland five-eighth Johnathan Thurston seemed severely restricted by a groin injury throughout while talisman Greg Inglis was hardly sighted.
The Blues roared to a 14-0 halftime lead on the back of tries to fullback Jarryd Hayne in the fifth minute and centre Michael Jennings in the 36th.
Parramatta’s Hayne scored a off a short pass from Cronulla’s Lewis while Sydney Roosters’ Jennings beat five defenders on a sizzling run to the line.
The Maroons were frustrated as they tried to lift themselves back into the game in the second half, with Cameron Smith penalised for a double movement before winger Darius Boyd crossed off Inglis with 19 minutes to go.
Daley hailed debutants James Maloney and Blake Ferguson but guaranteed interchange back Josh Reynolds he would keep his spot despite failing to get on the field.
Captain Smith said the rucks were quicker than they usually are in interstate football.
“We have to … pretty much do what they do,” said Smith.
“They get numbers in the tackle, they lie all over us in the ruck. It’s almost like we were playing a club style of footy, with the ruck interpretation.
“We’d get our numbers in there and we’d be up and out, rather than holding them down a bit longer which the referees allow at this level.”
Maroons coach Mal Meninga reckoned “everyone played well – we just got outgunned early”.
The series resumes at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on June 26. “We’re going to go up there, people in the street are going to hate us, they’re going to be ripping our heads off in game two,” said Gallen.
NEW SOUTH WALES 14 (J Hayne M Jennings tries J Maloney 3 goals) bt QUEENSLAND 6 (D Boyd try C Smith goal) at ANZ Stadium. Referees: S Hayne/A Klein. Crowd: 80,380.
Filed for: THE GUARDIAN
NEW SOUTH WALES: Jarryd Hayne (Parramatta); Brett Morris (St George Illawarra), Michael Jennings (Sydney Roosters), Josh Morris (Canterbury), Blake Ferguson (Canberra); James Maloney (Sydney Roosters), Mitchell Pearce (Sydney Roosters); Greg Bird (Gold Coast), Luke Lewis (Cronulla), Ryan Hoffman (Melbourne), James Tamou (North Queensland), Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers), Paul Gallen (capt, Cronulla).
Reserves: Trent Merrin (St George Illawarra), Andrew Fifita (Cronulla), Anthony Watmough (Manly), Josh Reynolds (Canterbury).
QUEENSLAND: Billy Slater (Melbourne); Darius Boyd (Newcastle), Greg Inglis (South Sydney), Justin Hodges (Brisbane), Brent Tate (North Queensland); Johnathan Thurston (North Queensland), Cooper Cronk (Melbourne); Ashley Harrison (Gold Coast), Sam Thaiday (Brisbane), Nate Myles (Gold Coast), Matt Scott (North Queensland), Cameron Smith (capt, Melbourne), David Shillington (North Queensland)
Reserves: Corey Parker (Brisbane), Matt Gillett (Brisbane), Ben Te’o (South Sydney), Chris McQueen (South Sydney).
Referees: Ashley Klein/Shayne Hayne.