NSW too good in first game of historic Origin series

Jasper Bruce |

NSW have won Game 1 of State of Origin with the Blues posting a 22-12 victory over Queensland.
NSW have won Game 1 of State of Origin with the Blues posting a 22-12 victory over Queensland.

NSW are in the box seat to take out the inaugural three-game women’s State of Origin series after a convincing 22-12 victory over Queensland before a record crowd in the series opener.

Behind enemy lines at Suncorp Stadium, the Sky Blues shrugged off concerns prompted by a new halves combination and lack of competitive matches in the lead-up to Thursday night.

They rode a powerful 14-0 first half to victory and now have the chance to close out the historic series with a game in hand when they host the Maroons in Newcastle on June 6.

“We’ve had a lot of people doubt our team so to prove all those people wrong and come away with a solid win, it’s making game two very exciting,” said Blues co-captain Isabelle Kelly.

The Maroons paid the penalty for a slow start resulting in victory for the visiting Blues. (Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS)

It proved a masterstroke for NSW to replace teen sensation Jesse Southwell with veteran halfback Rachael Pearson.

The 30-year-old drilled a dropout to the sideline that signalled the beginning of NSW’s first-half dominance before 25,492 fans – the most that have ever attended a women’s Origin game.

Pearson continued to kick deftly, showing little sign of the calf injury that had hampered her this month, and made a try-saving one-on-one tackle on Tarryn Aiken in the second half as Queensland stormed back into the game.

“I thought Rachael was outstanding,” said NSW coach Kylie Hilder.

Outstanding with 108 metres and two line breaks, Sky Blues prop Caitlan Johnston grabbed a short ball from Olivia Higgins and crashed over to put paid to Queensland’s comeback with six minutes remaining.

The experienced Maroons were clumsy early on and had no answers when the visitors shifted the ball at break-neck speed.

“We knew we made some really crucial errors in that first half and it did us in,” said Maroons coach Tahnee Norris.

“If we can fix those crucial errors, I think it changes the game.”

Usually a centre at club level for Gold Coast, Jaime Chapman was superb on the right wing, first tearing away on the line break that put the Sky Blues in position for fullback Emma Tonegato to open the scoring.

Chapman had her own try when she stepped inside Emily Bass and then burned reigning Dally M Medallist Tamika Upton to run 80 metres and score from a kick return. Suddenly, the Blues were up 12-0 after 10 minutes.

Chapman could have had two more tries in the first half had she been able to handle cross-field kicks from Pearson.

Jamie Chapman crosses over to score the Blues’ second try in State of Origin 1. (Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS)

The Maroons enjoyed plenty of football after the break and threatened to chase the tiring visitors down, with Upton stepping over for the Maroons’ first try after being well contained to that point.

Shortly after Emma Manzelmann spilt the ball diving over for what could have been their second, Johnston struck back for NSW.

Queensland rued the missed chance.

“If Emma scores that try, it’s 22-18 and it’s a different ball game,” said Maroons captain Ali Brigginshaw.

“We’ve got to learn from that, that’s a kick in the butt to us.”

As the NRL looks to clamp down on players making illegal contact with kicker’s legs, Baxter went on report for a shot on Queensland’s Zehara Temara in the first half.

“I don’t think she was deliberately attacking the legs. It was just an unfortunate situation,” Hilder said.