Origin viewers have hit out at the officiating in Wednesday night's State of Origin opener after a number of controversial calls went against both sides. The Maroons overcame a contentious Api Koroisau try for NSW and a questionable sin-binning of Tom Flegler to land a hammer blow on the Blues, who were left fuming over a 'no try' decision against Tyson Frizell in the first half.
Fortunately for the Maroons, the calls against them didn't prove costly as try-scoring doubles from Selwyn Cobbo and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow helped Billy Slater's record a crucial victory ahead of Game II at Suncorp Stadium. Cameron Munster wrapped up the result with five minutes to go after Maroons prop Lindsay Collins out-jumped Blues captain James Tedesco to claim a high kick and set up the game-clincher.
'ABSOLUTE JOKE': Tom Flegler sin bin drama leaves Origin fans fuming
'REALLY POOR': Nicho Hynes image sparks furious Blues backlash
'EMBARRASSING': James Tedesco called out after NSW Origin horror show
For the Blues and under-fire coach Brad Fittler, it was a sense of what could have been, with the disappointing defeat throwing up inevitable questions about the futures of both the NSW coach and captain Tedesco. However, NSW and their fans were left seething over a pair of particularly controversial calls that could have changed the complexion of the contest.
The first was a contentious 'no try' decision from referee Ashley Klein after Frizell appeared to get at least part of the ball over the tryline in the 22nd minute, while Queensland winger Murray Taulagi had his hand under the rest of the footy. Klein sent the incident up to the Bunker as a 'no try' and with insufficient evidence to conclusively say otherwise, the on-field decision stood.
Then in the shadows of halftime, the Blues thought they should have had a set restart after Maroons interchange Harry Grant appeared to touch a ball off a Blues kick, before Tom Trbojevic took possession and was tackled. Klein ruled a hand-over after the tackle set was complete, with the Bunker again finding no concrete evidence to overturn the on-field ruling.
Viewers were particularly baffled about the Grant incident, with replays suggesting he did get a touch on the ball, meaning NSW should have had a fresh set-of-six tackles metres out from the Maroons' tryline. Fans were also outraged that Klein's initial reaction to the Frizell incident was a 'no try' when the benefit of doubt may well have gone with the attacking side.
— NRL on Nine (@NRLonNine) May 31, 2023
Is there anyone watching SOS who really doesn't think that some part of the ball didn't touch a single blade of grass? Don't blame the bunker, the ref needed to be in there. Took a call from to touchy who was on the blindside #StateofOrigin
— Tim Carroll (@T_J_Carroll) May 31, 2023
The bunker didn’t know what they were doing last night. Frizell got that ball on the ground. API knocked on grant knocked on sin bin for a head clash the officials ruined the game last night. 🤦♀️ (in no one’s favour it was just crap all round)
— Captain_morgan00 (@capt_morgan00) May 31, 2023
The bunker has been woeful
— R. (@rob10_v) May 31, 2023
Frizell try, grant hand on ball bunker doing everything to keep qld in it
— Joshua (@YoshThePlug) May 31, 2023
What? The clear touch from Grant into Turbo? The disallowed try by Frizell? 🤔
— Alex Carter (@abbacarter) May 31, 2023
Friz scored for sure there was a huge gap with no hands on that ball. That captain challenge the bunker missed munsters escort and grants touch. Embarrassing for nrl
— Joe (@Joe73123094) May 31, 2023
The bunker ref must be fired from Origin forever....a joke
— Paul J Cross (@PaulJCross1362) May 31, 2023
Bunker questioned over several Origin calls
Maroons fans were equally livid with the Bunker for awarding a try to NSW hooker Koroisau, who looked to have knocked on from an attempted Valentine Holmes offload for the Maroons, before scooping up the ball before Reuben Cotter and scurrying over the tryline. The Queenslanders were also reduced to 12 men for the final 10 minutes of the contest when Flegler was controversially sin-binned for shoulder contact to the head of Trbojevic.
The Blues will be kicking themselves that they failed to see out the final 10 minutes with a two-point lead and a man advantage. The fact they conceded two tries to a undermanned Maroons outfit in that time is even more concerning for Fittler and his troops.
The NSW coach picked the untried duo of Hudson Young and Tevita Pangai Jr in the pack and neither were able to impose themselves on the game, while Tedesco had almost certainly his worst game in a Blues jersey after being at fault - at least in some part - for three of Queensland's tries.
"It's a fair way away," Fittler said of his team selection for Game II. "We'll see what happens in a couple of weeks, we'll go from there." While Fittler is reluctant to promise sweeping changes that many NSW fans are calling for, one man who will almost certainly feature in Game II if fit, is injured centre, Latrell Mitchell.
"I'll catch up with him (Mitchell) over the next couple of days, he sent the boys a message and said things were going pretty good - hopefully he's fit and ready to be picked," Fittler said of the Rabbitohs star. Adding to the Blues' concerns is the fact centre Trbojevic failed his head injury assessment and, due to Manly's schedule, won't have a game to prove his fitness.
There will also be a focus on Cronulla halfback Nicho Hynes, who was promised a run at hooker on debut, but only got onto the field when covering for Trbojevic at centre. "There was always the option at hooker, but I thought Api (Koroisau) was doing a good job there," Fittler said. The Blues go into their do-or-die Game II at Suncorp Stadium having never saved a series by winning in Queensland in Origin's 41-year history.
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.