A ragged Queensland scored twice with 12 men and an unfamiliar line to somehow beat New South Wales 26-18 in the first game of the 2023 State of Origin series at the Adelaide Oval, overcoming the late sin-binning of Tom Flegler and a string of injuries to record the victory.
Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Cameron Munster scored late tries to overturn an 18-16 deficit despite Billy Slater’s side being short-handed and left with hooker Ben Hunt and back-rower David Fifita ending the game in the centres.
A fractious opening saw penalties becoming the basis for many of the best field position on offer to both sides, and Josh Addo-Carr was arguably lucky not to sit out 10 minutes after dropping a forearm in an early tackle on Reece Walsh.
- Salford and Hull KR at war at Magic Weekend
- How Tina Turner changed rugby league
- 2023 Betfred Super League odds*
Tabuai-Fibow capitalised on Queensland’s more controlled opening, pouncing on a Munster grubber on the last tackle after an offside penalty had built up field position for the Maroons.
And within a couple of minutes they had another, Selwyn Cobbo finishing in the corner off Valentine Holmes’ pass after Queensland had exposed Jarome Luai and created an overlap, all after a ball strip by Hudson Young had piggy-backed them up the field. Although Holmes couldn’t add to his earlier conversion, Queensland had a 10-0 lead.
There was no panic from Brad Fittler’s side though as the Blues began to build pressure of their own, and it took two great try-saving tackles from Murray Taulagi to keep them at bay, first from James Tedesco, then most spectacularly when keeping out Tyson Frizell.
NSW eventually broke through shortly before half-time, Liam Martin bursting in off a short Jarome Luai pass on a repeat set after a Queenslander had got a hand to the ball in a tackle. Nathan Cleary’s goal reduced the gap to four at the break and within five minutes of the restart the Blues were ahead.
A lack of concentration from Queensland in their own 20 saw Holmes give up the ball at Apisai Koroisau’s feet, and the Blues hooker was quick to react, picking up and strolling in for a gift of a try. Cleary’s two made it 12-10 NSW.
Just when it appeared that the Maroons had fallen off the pace set by their opponents they were able to strike back against the grain of what had gone on for the previous 40 minutes, Reuben Cotter winning the ball in a tackle to set up the position from which Walsh’s superb cut-out pass sent in Cobbo, who cleverly tucked in his legs to reach the corner and return Queensland into the lead.
But the Blues’ quality ensured they soon regained the lead after Harry Grant patted back Cleary’s perfect lofted kick to Luai, and Stephen Crichton took the final pass to score a try converted from the tee by Cleary.
Queensland’s task of clawing back the 18-16 deficit was made so much harder when Tom Flegler was sin-binned 12 minutes from time for an apparent shoulder charge to the head of Tom Trbojevic which also resulted in an Origin debut for Cronulla’s Nicho Hynes in place of Trbojevic. A series of injuries also left the Maroons scrambling to get any kind of organisation in their play, with Hunt and Fifita having to end the match in the centres.
So it was all the more remarkable when a long shift to the left saw Munster tee up Tabuai-Fidow, who handed off Addo-Carr and then left Tedesco on his backside as he stepped inside to give the Maroons their third lead of the night.
And Tedesco would be left further embarrassed moments later as the greatest full-back in the game was beaten to a bomb by prop forward Lindsay Collins, who then offloaded for Munster to score the clincher to the shock of the 48,613 fans in attendance.
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject to Change