Dane Gagai scores a try for Queensland in the State of Origin series opener at Suncorp Stadium. Picture: Getty Images
Dane Gagai scores a try for Queensland in the State of Origin series opener at Suncorp Stadium. Picture: Getty Images

Mighty Maroons deliver on Kevvie’s bold promise

Queensland coach Kevin Walters promised this. The Maroons would win. He called it. He believed it. His braveheart troops were never going to let their general down.

The Maroons produced a trademark fightback as two-try hero Dane Gagai rocked the Blues with a 95-metre intercept to sink NSW 18-14 and put Queensland on course for another epic Origin triumph.

Before 52,191 fans, the Maroons summoned every fibre of Walters' spirit, overcoming an 8-0 half-time deficit with a superb second-half to draw first blood in a fast and furious Origin opener at Suncorp Stadium.

NSW entered this series as the reigning champions, but the Maroons are just one win away from clinching their 12th crown in 14 years heading into Game Two in Perth on June 23.

This was a classic Origin narrative. The Blues, surging at 8-0, looked in control. Then Queensland, refusing to yield, broke their hearts.

Trailing by eight, the Maroons rocked NSW with a brutal second stanza, Corey Oates crossing in the 53rd minute before two tries in three minutes to Gagai (67th and 70th) powered Queensland to a 1-0 lead.

 

Dane Gagai scored two tries in a man-of-the-match performance for Queensland. Picture: Getty Images
Dane Gagai scored two tries in a man-of-the-match performance for Queensland. Picture: Getty Images

 

Man-of-the-match Gagai now has 11 tries from as many Origin games - and the first try of his brace summed up the death-or-glory moment of this contest.

With scores locked 8-all in the 67th minute, the Blues looked certain to score when Jack Wighton ghosted outside his man, only for his pass to be intercepted by Gagai, who streaked away to score.

The Maroons winger, who ran for 256 metres, then plunged the dagger into the Blues when he crossed three minutes later before Queensland defended like demons in the last 10 minutes.

It was a wonderful display by Queensland's fusion of old and new.

Kalyn Ponga was superb in his starting debut at fullback and rookie David Fifita was brutal off the bench, while halves Daly Cherry-Evans and Cameron Munster outpointed their NSW rivals.

This was also a triumph off the field for Walters. During the week, it emerged he had hired the services of Coach Whisperer Bradley Charles Stubbs, who has taught him the Science of Belief.

Dane Gagai scores a try for Queensland in the State of Origin series opener at Suncorp Stadium. Picture: Getty Images
Dane Gagai scores a try for Queensland in the State of Origin series opener at Suncorp Stadium. Picture: Getty Images

On Wednesday night, the Maroons collectively believed.

The traditional axiom is that Origin games are won on defence but NSW tormented the Maroons in the first half with two other ingredients - size and speed.

For all NSW's zip, Queensland always looked likely. They just couldn't land the killer punch, blowing three glorious chances in the first half.

Given their lack of efficiency without the ball - Queensland missed 26 tackles to 11 in the first half - the Maroons did well to hold the Blues to 8-0 at half-time.

 

When it mattered most, with the stakes rising in the second half, his Maroons troops tapped into his reservoir of self-belief.

The hosts' second half was built on Cherry-Evans' clever boot, defensive grit and good old-fashioned Queensland spirit.

A stunning 15-minute blitz - featuring four compelling moments - won the game for Kevvie's heroes.

First, Oates gave Queensland hope in the 52nd minute when he took a Ponga bullet pass and crossed to whittle the deficit to 8-6.

 

Corey Oates opened Queensland’s try-scoring account. Picture: AAP
Corey Oates opened Queensland’s try-scoring account. Picture: AAP

 

Within minutes, Queensland's forwards went berserk in the most brutal set of the game. And when Matt Gillett, about to score from a Cherry-Evans kick, was taken out by Latrell Mitchell, who was sin-binned, the Blues were wobbling.

Then came the moment when NSW attacked … and Gagai counterpunched.

While Gagai was brilliant, Queensland found a host of heroes in the midfield. Josh Papalii and Jai Arrow punched above their weight and Gillett was superb in his first Origin game back from a broken neck.

The Maroons' dynasty may have fallen last year, but Walters is on the cusp of creating a new generation of wonder boys.

QUEENSLAND 18 (D Gagai 2 C Oates tries K Ponga 3 goals) bt NEW SOUTH WALES 14 (J Morris J Trbojevic tries N Cleary 3 goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Referee: Gerard Sutton, Ashley Klein. Crowd: 52,191.

Game 1: QLD 18 bt NSW 14 Series: QLD lead NSW 1-0 AAP

News Corp Australia


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