Contentious refereeing decisions aside, a pretty obvious reality emerged once again from Origin One. As has been the case for the past six years, Queensland displayed a distinct aura of confidence and calm. They were seemingly dominated for most of the game – yet they led for the majority of the night! Queensland were statistically beaten, yet won 18-10 on the scoreboard.
But how? Let’s have a look at a breakdown of the numbers to try to discover why it is that New South Wales are not one up in the series.
This probably will only further incense New South Wales fans: if the stats point to a game they should have won it is only natural they’ll point to some dodgy decisions as their downfall – but that would be unfair. The truth is, a missed conversion was a big factor… an individual’s brain snap to rush from distance and throw punches was a huge factor… not pushing for repeat sets and building adequate pressure was a factor… and not numbering up in defence at crucial times also hurt the Blues, big time.
Here are some crucial statistics breakdowns from Origin I:
NSW: 32/40 = 80 per cent
Qld: 28/35 = 80 per cent
Both teams completed at the same level – but it is important to note the amount of extra ball New South Wales received. With five sets of six more, they scored eight fewer points. The Queensland side never really looked flustered; they had the demeanour of a side that knew points would flow eventually. The Blues looked more frustrated and desperate… and the necessary points just didn’t come easily. They scored twice, off kicks, and this was their only weapon all night.
NSW: 1574 metres
Qld: 1253 metres
Wow! The Blues made more than 300 metres extra in this game – and still came up empty. This is extremely significant: in the NRL, not a single team has won a game this season after making less than 300 metres than their opponent, but Queensland won by eight! On the vast majority of occasions in the NRL if you win the metres battle, you win the match. There are the odd exceptions… but nothing like this comes along often. The only match resembling anything like it was in Round 7 when Melbourne beat Canterbury 12-6 despite a 293-metre deficit in metres gained.
Paul Gallen was a machine for the Blues again, making 230 metres. Hayne (168), Jennings (151), Uate (143), Brett Stewart (126) and Bird (122) joined the triple-figure club.
For the Maroons, Brent Tate led the way with 154 metres. Inglis (134), Boyd (120) and Slater (104) also hit triple figures – but not a single forward managed to.
So how did they overcome this discrepancy? Answer: with a superior kicking game (and some very skilful players).
NSW: 598 metres
Qld: 757 metres
The 159 extra kicking metres might not sound a lot, and it further shows how the Blues won the running yardage battle – but it was significant. Cameron Smith in particular was brilliant in picking moments to kick early and from dummy-half, pinning the Blues back in their end when they had seemingly made territorial inroads. It’s no surprise to learn Smith kicked well in the above-mentioned club game v the Bulldogs. He’s a class act. The stats say he kicked for 170 metres last night, behind Cronk’s 367 and equal with Thurston’s 170; but there is no doubt his kicks were all executed at important times.
New South Wales relied on Pearce almost exclusively (312 metres) and need more from Carney (109) and Farah (89) to mix things up.
The Blues had to come up with less defence (granted, not by much) – but still couldn’t crack the line without a kick. The top Maroons tacklers were Smith (47), Harrison (39), Scott (36) and Myles (36).
The Blues were led by Farah (38), Glenn Stewart (34), Gallen (33) and Merrin (30).
Yep, that’s right: the Queenslanders missed 48 tackles. Yet they head to Sydney with a 1-0 lead in the series. The Maroons always scramble well – they made a great try-saver on Robbie Farah in the first half – but to miss this many tackles and still win is incredible. This is just another reason why the Blues must still be scratching their heads. Somehow this Queensland team can beat the odds, time and again. Every Queensland player bar Billy Slater missed at least one tackle. Cooper Cronk missed nine, Justin Hodges and Nate Myles (man of the match) six each…
For the record, 12 of the 17 Blues missed tackles, with the worst offenders being Mitchell Pearce and Josh Morris with five each.
Yes it is true the Blues received more penalties than Queensland. But the important factor here is what happened afterwards and also when they were dished out (for instance NSW received an innocuous penalty late in the match when the result was decided). Both Queensland’s first-half tries came after penalties. One was a questionable hold-down penalty not often seen in Origin, and then Greg Bird was penalised for a heavy tackle… the debate on whether it was dangerous will rage for a while. (Not so long ago it would have been regarded as one of the tackles of the year!)
The other obvious controversial moment was the decision to send Jennings to the sin bin. While there is no debate about Jennings running from a distance and being involved in a fight, there is merit in the comment made by Gallen at the time. The Blues captain mentioned Sam Thaiday and his penchant for running in over the past few series. Justin Hodges is another in the same boat. As are a number of other Blues players. Thaiday and Mitchell Pearce in particular continued the fight on this occasion, but stayed on the field. There is no definitive answer to this because black-and-white rules have never really applied to Origin. What is clear is it allowed Queensland to take control… and they never relinquished their grip.
Based on the stats the New South Wales boys have to think if they perform similarly in Origin II and just rid a few silly errors and penalties from their game, they should be in a good position. Carney, Creagh and Buhrer are probably the most likely to be under pressure to retain spots based on their numbers. Meanwhile Mal Meninga is smart enough to know his side can’t continue to be dominated up the middle and win every game.
Can we play Game Two tomorrow? Bring it on!
• � Statistics: NRL Stats