Queensland win Origin I after NSW’s Suaalii sent off

Scott Bailey |

Ben Hunt (2-r) is congratulated by skipper Daly Cherry-Evans after scoring a try in the 38-10 win.
Ben Hunt (2-r) is congratulated by skipper Daly Cherry-Evans after scoring a try in the 38-10 win.

Michael Maguire has accused the NRL of double standards on Joseph Suaalii’s State of Origin send-off after Queensland romped to a series-opening 38-10 win at Accor Stadium.

In a horror start to Maguire’s tenure as NSW coach, Suaalii lasted just seven minutes on debut before being marched for a late and high hit on Reece Walsh.

The shot left the Blues in tatters on their right edge, as Queensland romped to their biggest ever win in Sydney and within one victory of a third straight series success.

Jamming in to put a hit on, Suaalii collected Walsh high and late after the Maroons fullback had passed the ball while coming out of his own half.

Referee Ashley Klein ordered the rugby-bound star from the field after stopping play a minute later, labelling the shot as dangerous and direct to the head.

Joseph Suaalii sent off.
Joseph Suaalii gets his marching orders to become only the sixth player to be sent off in Origin. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

Suaalii now faces a four-game ban for a grade-two reckless high tackle, which would balloon out to five matches if he fights it and loses.

Maguire pointed to the NRL’s decision not to sin-bin or charge Penrith centre Taylan May for head-on-head contact on Walsh earlier this year.

“Earlier on in the year, he ended up with a broken jaw, I think. And there’s no send off,” Maguire said.

“This one was line ball, because he was actually falling. And the height of that in this moment had Joey clip him a bit.

“But it was a big call in a game like this.”

Maroons coach Billy Slater refused to comment on the tackle when asked after the win.

“I will keep my feelings about that to myself,” Slater said.

Asked whether he felt NSW had made a point to target Walsh illegally, Slater said: “I have no idea, but I will keep my feelings on that to myself.

“(Reece) seems to be OK now. He didn’t look too good on the field. But he seems to be OK in the sheds.”

Reece Walsh.
Reece Walsh congratulates teammates after the Maroons’ 28-point win. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

With Suaalii off the field, Queensland ran through the gap caused on the Blues’ right edge with ease as Slater’s decision to have Selwyn Cobbo on the bench paid dividends.

Man-of-the-match Daly Cherry-Evans was brilliant for Queensland, while Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow finished with a hat-trick after being moved to fullback.

Jaydn Su’A and Cobbo also ran roughshod down Suaalii’s side, both offloading in the lead up to one Tabuai-Fidow try before Cobbo brushed off defenders to set up another.

The Blues eventually shifted Stephen Crichton to right centre to shut down the Maroons’ threat before halftime, but by then the damage had been done.

Queensland led 20-6 giving NSW an insurmountable mountain to climb.

The path to the Blues’ first series victory since 2021 looks equally difficult for Maguire’s men, with the final two games in Melbourne and Brisbane.

Only the 1994 NSW side has come back to win the series after losing the first game at home and being asked to spend the rest of the series on the road.

NSW started the better of the teams on Wednesday night, winning the early territorial battle.

But when Nicho Hynes put a grubberkick dead, the Maroons went down field with Cherry-Evans skipping out of dummy-half to put Ben Hunt over.

Daly Cherry-Evans.
Maroons skipper Daly Cherry-Evans led from the front against the Blues to be named man of the match. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

And while NSW managed to regroup late in the first half and get themselves back to 20-10 early in the second through tries to James Tedesco and Zac Lomax, Queensland were able to pull away again late.

After holding out a NSW attacking raid with 13 minutes to play, Queensland went the length of the field when Cobbo and Hunt broke through the line on back-to-back plays.

Cherry-Evans then put the game beyond all doubt when he intercepted an Isaah Yeo pass moments later, running 60 metres before kicking for Xavier Coates to score.

Tabuai-Fidow then bagged another on a night of few positives for NSW with only Lomax, Liam Martin and Spencer Leniu having games to remember.