NRL

State Of Origin Review: Game 1, 2020

Queensland 18 defeated New South Wales 14 at the Adelaide Oval

POTM: Daly Cherry-Evans


This just in:

With the world slowly collapsing around us, it took until November to celebrate 40 years of State Of Origin with a HISTORIC maiden visit to the HISTORIC Adelaide Oval, and in the backdrop of the US and A experiencing the most violently swinging event since Adam Gilchrist took on Monty Panesar at the WACA in 2006, Channel 9 invited Roy & HG back onto our screens for a 40-year retrospective on some classic Origin moments, including that random visit to California in 1987.

Looking at the dearth of talent on display at the old Wide World Of Sports, Nine should’ve asked Roy & HG to call the game like the good old Triple J days, and it would’ve been fitting, considering HG/Greig Pickhaver is a South Australian.

As for what remained of the two states after the NRL season, two-time champions New South Wales were the clear favourites, with die hard Queenslander Luke Keary making his debut for the Blues partnering Nathan Cleary, joined by Eels teammates Clint Gutherson and Junior Paulo, with Daniel Tupou returning to Origin after 5 years away, thanks to the lack of International football.

Just as they had done in Perth for Origin II last year with the ‘Navy Blue’ strip (Which actually worked out well), the Cockroaches, in something that had been confirmed almost 12 months ago, wore some kind of special throwback to their 1997 jerseys, which went down like a lead balloon with the average punter.

I remember the NSWRL said they were paying tribute to their past… apparently that past was the days of Tommy Raudonikis shouting CATTLEDOG and Andrew Johns promptly getting belted by Jamie Goddard.

Meanwhile, 8 players debuted for what was apparently the worst Queensland side on paper in 20 years, including Roosters co-captain Jake Friend (Pitted against his fellow captain Boyd Cornder, hilariously), and it would’ve been 9 debutants, had Brenko Lee not hobbled off the ground barely 40 minutes before kickoff, bringing Panther Kurt Capewell (Wearing the No.18) into the starting side for his Origin debut.

The Maroons also paid tribute to their past, by reviving that classic QRL Kangaroo Q logo for 40 years of Origin…. although they couldn’t have picked a worse time to recall Cam Munster from a solid few days of celebrating the Storm’s premiership.

They apparently had Buckley’s, but the Banana Benders had one thing their neighbours to the South didn’t – Mal and Wayne pulling the strings.


1st Half


Queensland captain Daly Cherry Evans proved to be a bigger and better tosser than Boyd Cordner and elected to kick into the breeze, which looked a great move when Damien Cook fumbled the opening kickoff, but it ended in a handover.

The Blues sent an early warning shot when they charged down the right off the back of a penalty, but Addo-Carr was taken out by some good scrambling defence from Titans teammates Phillip Sami and AJ Brimson.

The Queensland right edge of Dane Gagai and Xavier Coates got into the game early with a promising break down the right, but Cook mopped up Coates’ kick and Cherry-Evans forced a drop-out, but the attack came to nothing with a Josh Papalii forward pass.

Despite no scoring through the opening 5 minutes, what was noticable was the lightning fast conditions at the Adelaide Oval, which gave Flemington on Cup Day a run for its money, which was possibly influenced by it still being dusk at kickoff with Daylight Savings in play.

8 minutes in, the Maroons got the chance to open the scoring on the back of 2 offside penalties, but Cherry Evans’ kick from 25 metres out was pushed to the right.

Keeping up this very Queensland-dominated start, the Maroons started another set inside Blues territory when Cleary’s kick was charged down and deemed to have not been played at, but the Blues defence hamstrung themselves with a 6 again and a cheap handling error by Keary, but the Cockroaches kept the scores deadlocked.

Despite some prognostications of doom, Wayne Bennett definitely had the young Maroons up for the fight.

15 minutes in, the Blues charged up the middle of the ground via Gutherson and Tedesco, and found themselves inside the Queensland 10 on the last tackle, and Cook gathered his own kick after a somewhat fortunate ricochet off Tino Faasuamaleaui’s left foot, and the Rabbitohs No.9 dived over to score the opening try, with Nathan Cleary adding the extras.

Despite grabbing the lead, Luke Keary was dealing with some kind of a dead arm issue, leaving Cody Walker on standby, and skipper Boyd Cordner, who has had a horror run with concussions in 2019-2020, suffered a head knock by a stray elbow in a routine tackle on Felise Kaufusi, forcing him off the ground in a worrying moment, although he came back on after seemingly passing the HIA.

Considering Cordner’s history with head knocks, which have been so numerous that some voices want/wanted him to retire, that was one repeat incident away from being a huge shitshow.

The Blues were in front, but they were having some personnel headaches.

With Daniel Tupou in his usual position on the left wing, ‘The Foxx’ Addo-Carr was playing out of position on the right wing, a strange move considering he’d just won a premiership in his preferred position.

Still, the Storm flyer continued his great start with an intercept at the Blues 20, then off the back of a Maroons forward pass in their own territory, Tedesco and Gutherson reeled in Capewell and Sami down the right, and Addo-Carr rather easily beat AJ Brimson to dive over and make it 10-0 after 22 minutes.

Still, continuing the injury problems, Cameron Murray, who had replaced Cordner, had his leg twisted on his first hit-up and went straight off the field, and was out for the rest of the game with a hamstring injury.

For the Blues’ sake, it was fortunate Cordner came back, because they would’ve been 2 forwards down for the last hour.

30 minutes in, Sami fumbled a high ball, the Blues were able to force a drop-out, but Gagai kept Tupou from scoring in the left corner.

To that point, the Blues had 6 out of the last 7 sets, as one of Cleary’s kicks for Addo-Carr caught the breeze and sailed out for a 20m tap, and after a fairly uninteresting final 5 minutes before the break, the Blues were up 10-0 after the opening 40.

Bennett’s Maroons weren’t out of it, but the wide passing game just wasn’t able to find a way through the Blues defensive line.

Still, with the Master Coach and the most successful Origin coach in history by his side, the Banana Benders were about to make the events of the US Election the second biggest swing of the week.


2nd Half


Starting the 2nd Half just as they had the 1st, Queensland spent the opening 10 minutes of the half slowly winning the field position battle, forcing New South Wales to start several sets inside their own 20m, building the pressure on the Blues playmakers, and eventually, it came to fruition.

In the 50th minute, Munster kept a mundane play alive with an offload, and seconds later, debutant Capewell left Gutherson eating dirt with a lovely fend, he put in a classic ‘unco’ kick in, and an unmarked Brimson charged through on his right, got the bounce, and put the Maroons on the board!

That Capewell play completely changed the game, and it was nothing the Maroons hadn’t earned.

Minutes later, Ben Hunt got an offload to DCE on his own 30m, Gagai brushed off Jack Wighton with sheer strength, and exploded down the right, and with two players either side, Xavier Coates was the lucky bugger who won the raffle, and scored in the right corner to tie the scores at 10-10.

DCE converted in the right corner with a lovely kick, and just like that, Queensland led 12-10.

Year on year, without fail, Dane Gagai will display mundane club form for huge portions of a season, no matter where he’s at, but put him in a Maroons jersey, and he grows a third leg.

With the Blues looking shocked and feeling the pump of being behind on the scoreboard, in the 66th minute, Christian Welch applied some good pressure on Tupou, who threw a pissy offload to nobody as a direct result, and Cameron Munster was smart enough to see what was going on, kicked ahead for himself, gathered the ball, and beat off Damien Cook to score a crucial try.

3 tries in 15 minutes.

It won them the game.

Cherry-Evans nailed another tough kick out wide, and it was 18-10 with 13 minutes remaining, as the sustained pressure and quicker tempo was doing a number on the Cockroaches, who simply couldn’t get their hands on the ball to make a lick of difference.

Welch needed a HIA with 12 minutes remaining, which pretty much meant the end of his night.

The first sign of life all half for the Blues came in the 72nd minute, when Addo Carr made a break down the right edge, but he knocked on gathering his own kick, and decided to challenge referee Sutton’s decision of a knock-on.

It was a winger challenging a decision, so everyone knew it was a blatant knock on.

Meantime, Wighton was now hobbling after a furious chase, and Capewell was running on fumes, having dealt with a sore groin in the build-up to the game.

The Blues got a set restart on a dropout, and on their best chance of the half, Gutherson sucked in the wounded Capewell (Again) and fed in Addo-Carr for a double to make it 18-14.

With the toughest kick of the night, Cleary narrowly missed to the right, leaving the Blues needing a converted try to win with 5 minutes to go.

That was the end of Capewell’s night, ending his Origin debut after a fine 75 minute performance, and outside of the all-round fantastic leading by example from DCE, Capewell was one of the best afield.

With that shot in the arm, Blues were now charging down the left, and ironically, a Queensland knock-on from a stray hand stopped an overlap and a potential try to the Blues.

The last desperate attack in the final minute saw the Blues get a penalty 2m out (Gee, that conversion would’ve helped), then Felise Kaufusi was binned with 13 seconds left for a professional foul on Gutherson.

It took him more time to actually leave the field than was left on the clock.

With a play remaining, the Blues shifted left, but Tedesco was caught and held down long enough in a desperate 5-man tackle (Resembling the human centipede) for referee Sutton to signal for full time, and deny the Blues one last play, and the plucky underdogs had produced another famous Origin win, to scenes of sheer jubilation from anyone in Maroon.

Obviously Wayne was thrilled:

Obviously there was the conjecture about how much time was actually left, considering Channel 9’s graphic showed 79:59 when Tedesco played the ball, but that didn’t take into account the gap between the official clock from the independent timekeeper and the TV clock.

To be honest, we’ve probably always known that.

So there you go, a strange ending to an Origin game that just didn’t really feel like an Origin game….

The ratings seemed to reflect it, and the time of year plus being post-NRL season absolutely has something to do with that.

I also noticed a story that Gladys Berejiklian was apparently shocked by a surprise victory text from Annastacia Palaszczuk, who clearly couldn’t give a stuff about the border situation between Queensland and New South Wales.

I imagine that text was a simple:

“Stick that up your arse, Cockroach, QUEENSLANDER!”

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