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Billy Slater's bold gamble paid off in Origin I with upset win

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

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Queensland’s debutants delivered on the hype and their main men fired to end a five-year Sydney State of Origin drought.


Rookie coach Billy Slater’s bold selection of four debutants paid off in Sydney on Wednesday night, with Pat Carrigan, Reuben Cotter and Selwyn Cobbo all key factors in Wednesday night’s 16-10 win in Game I.

The fourth, Jeremiah Nanai had his own dramas too, overcoming a nasty-looking ankle injury to return in the second half and relieve what had been a two-man bench after Xavier Coates’ first-half injury.

Cobbo’s individual brilliance set up their first try, a nice pick-up and kick in-field finding Dane Gagai.

Carrigan (145 run metres, 25 tackles) was the man who swung the momentum when he came off the bench in the first half and Cotter (49 tackles) was a wrecking ball over 80 minutes of high-paced footy.

That allowed playmakers Daly Cherry-Evans, man-of-the-match Cameron Munster and Kalyn Ponga to go to work.


And that they did, Cherry-Evans slicing through for a try, Ponga setting up two with sublime passing and Munster’s goosestep sure to haunt the Blues until they meet again in Perth on June 26.

“We knew when he (Carrigan) was on the field didn’t we. Didn’t have to put it on the screen,” Slater said.

“His first carry was a real momentum shift and one of our best sets … then he comes out and makes a real statement with his defence.

“That was a great debut.”


A 16-4 lead was reduced to six points when Cameron Murray scored with seven minutes to play.

Munster lobbed up again with the Blues on the charge, pinching possession and collecting a grubber, Valentine Holmes also scrambling brilliantly as the visitors held firm in a frantic final five minutes.

“We want the footy in Cam’s hands, but everyone’s got a role, it’s not just ‘give Munster the ball’,” Slater said.

“We’re going to build, there are four debutants tonight, we’re going to get better.”

Not since game two of the 2017 series – the last time Slater and his assistants Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston all played together – have Queensland won in the NSW capital.

They now head to Perth in the box seat, with the luxury of a third game at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on July 13.

-Murray Wenzel/AAP



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