NSW on back foot after opening Origin loss

·3-min read

NSW must overcome a near 30-year hoodoo to retain the State of Origin shield after suffering a sapping 16-10 loss to Queensland in a frenetic series-opener in Sydney.

Not even 80,512 mostly NSW fans - the biggest Origin crowd since COVID-19 changed the world - could inspire the Blues to victory at Accor Stadium on Wednesday night.

A masterclass from Maroons halves Cameron Munster and skipper Daly Cherry-Evans consigned NSW to their first home defeat in five years.

Only one side this century - Queensland 2017 - have lost the first game with home-ground advantage and gone on to claim the series.

The Blues have achieved the feat only once and not since 1994, after losing Origin I at the SCG before snatching the series with bounce-back victories at the MCG and Suncorp Stadium.

Twenty-eight years on, the Blues will need to prevail at Perth's Optus Stadium and Brisbane again to salvage the series from 1-0 down.

Fittler was in the NSW centres the only time the Blues won a series after losing the opener.

This time he'll need to plot a comeback from the Blues' coaching box after the Maroons ambushed the hosts with a courageous performance despite being reduced to 15 men.

"It's always tough. If you lose the first one, you're up against it," Fittler said.

"So we have to travel to Perth. We'll have a week's preparation there and obviously we've got to win it in Queensland.

"Winning a game there last year gave us a lot of confidence but it's a good challenge."

Queensland winger Xavier Coates limped off in the first half on Wednesday night, then interchange forward Jeremiah Nanai also suffered a leg injury after the break.

Even Fittler commended the Maroons for their fight against the odds.

"It was high tempo and helter skelter and they did really well after losing a winger," he said.

"They did well to keep the rhythm with what they were doing after that. They're some things that can knock you about."

With superstars Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trbojevic unavailable, Fittler's selection of Jack Wighton as NSW's starting left centre over Stephen Crichton had raised eyebrows.

But it looked a master stroke after Wighton crossed for the opening try of the night and continued to terrorise Queensland with a series of decisive plays both with and without the ball.

Wighton's strike, though, proved to be the Blues' only four points between the 15th and 71st minutes as the Maroons, with backs to the wall, shot to a 16-4 lead through tries from centres Dane Gagai, Valentine Holmes and Cherry-Evans.

A Cameron Murray try nine minutes from fulltime gave NSW hope, with Wighton ankle-tapped metres from the line as the clock wound down as close as the Blues got to levelling the series opener.

"It was a bit sloppy. We probably lost that period just before halftime and then after halftime they came out firing and we didn't respond well enough," Blues halfback Nathan Cleary told the Nine Network.

"We probably just tried to move the ball a bit too much. We hadn't created anything first.

"They scrambled hard and saved us a couple of times just before the line and that's what Origin's about."

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