Queensland v NSW: Five Key Points
The key talking points from the New South Wales Blues' dominant 28-4 win over Queensland in the opening match of the 2017 State of Origin series.
Fifita on fire
New South Wales prop Andrew Fifita rewarded the show of faith shown by coach Laurie Daley when he named the Sharks forward in the Blues' starting side, with the 27-year-old setting the tone early for his side. Fifita setup the first try of the night, breaking a Nate Myles tackle before offloading to Sharks teammate James Maloney who scored under posts. Fifita also ran for 80 metres in the first 20 minutes, making 25 post-contact metres in the process. His ability to bend Queensland's line worked the Maroons' forwards into the ground, with many struggling to take down the hulking prop as he charged up the middle.
The only thing that stopped Fifita was an HIA test in the 23rd minute after he had already amassed 96 metres, 36 post-contact metres and six tackle breaks. After passing the HIA Fifita re-joined his Blues teammates to immediate effect, making a line break that helped lead to a second New South Wales try. He finished with a try and 183 metres in a huge match.
James Tedesco had been somewhat out of form at club level heading into Game One of the 2017 Origin series, but it didn't take him long to rediscover it and deliver on the big stage. The New South Wales fullback was instrumental in the Blues' big win, running for just under 200 metres, scoring a try and assisting in another. He well and truly outplayed his opposite number Darius Boyd who is the Australian Kangaroos fullback and if he continues to play like that then the Blues will be almost impossible to beat.
Tedesco is ranked second in the NRL for tackle busts and if Origin statistics counted he would be top after accumulating another huge haul of 15 in Game One. The Blues No.1 also produced one of the best try-saving tackles you will ever see on Queensland's Matt Gillett, and debate will now rage on about who is the best fullback in the country.
State Against State. Mate Against Mate. Immerse yourself in the heat of the battle at the exclusive Bulldogs State of Origin Pre-Game Function.
Maroons lose the battle in the middle
Origin is won up the middle and the Maroons simply couldn't match it with New South Wales' big men. Fifita wasn't the only Blues forward to get in on the action, with David Klemmer (171m), Boyd Cordner (151m) and Aaron Woods (136m) also coming up with large numbers. In comparison, Queensland struggled in this department; none more so than ageing veterans Nate Myles (63m) and Sam Thaiday (47m).
In what is a real worry for Maroons coach Kevin Walters; no Queensland forwards ran for more than 120 metres, with lock Josh McGuire (119m), second-row forward Josh Papalii (109m) and debutant Dylan Napa (101m) the only Queensland forwards to accumulate more than 100 running metres, with most of these coming in junk time when the game was already lost. It is not a good sign for any side when your backs make more metres than your forwards and that was the unfortunate story for the Maroons on Wednesday night.
Another unhappy ending for Pearce
Suncorp Stadium once again became a house of horrors for Mitchell Pearce but it wasn't because of the result. In fact, Pearce had been quite solid in the first 51 minutes of play, making three tackle busts and scoring a try to help New South Wales to a commanding lead.
But it all came undone for the 28-year-old in the second half when he was the victim of a brutal head knock. Pearce put in a kick and was collected by Maroons centre Will Chambers, with Chambers's shoulder making direct contact with Pearce's head. Pearce lay motionless on the ground for several minutes before eventually being helped off the field. He did not return and it was clear he was concussed. On such a good night for the Blues you can't help but feel for the Roosters halfback who once again came off second best at Lang Park.
Napa's mixed debut
Maroons debutant Dylan Napa made a barnstorming start to his Origin career, taking two hit-ups in the first set of the game to stamp his authority on the clash early. His first run earned him 12 metres, pushing Blues defenders back as he churned his legs. To follow that up, Napa put two big hits on Sydney Roosters teammate Blake Ferguson.
However that was about as good as Napa's night got with the 24-year-old leaving the field soon after, hurting his ankle laying a tackle on Klemmer and taken straight up the tunnel to the sheds. It was a sorry end to the first half for the fiery redhead who returned in the second half with his ankle strapped up. He may have made it back onto the field but he was not the same player after suffering the injury, although credit must go to the Queenslander for fighting through the pain and running for 101 metres.