How Sterlo rated the Blues in Origin I
Just when you think you've seen everything when it comes to Origin, along comes a game that again throws some curve balls at you.
After 80 highly competitive minutes the Queenslanders again deservedly prevailed but only after receiving a real scare and at times definitely looking to be in some trouble.
It is a testament to this squad that they invariably find a way to win whatever the circumstances and this victory in Melbourne was achieved as much on mental toughness as it was physical.
The Blues definitely enjoyed the early running but again the Maroons didn't allow that to be reflected on the scoreboard, conceding just the one try from a kick.
In the end both NSW tries came from off the boot but there is little doubt that they will rue two significant calls against them that ultimately led to opposition tries.
Still, an Origin game does not come down to two decisions and while they will be going through a myriad of emotions including disappointment and frustration, they will also gain further confidence by knowing they weren't far off the mark.
The pressure is right on for the home game in Sydney where a loss is not an option.
These were immediate thoughts straight after the final whistle blew in relation to the Blues' individual performances.
1. B. STEWART (7): Very few attacking opportunities but a typical solid showing at the back. Most of the opposition kicks were directed away from him so there was not a great deal of kick return required.
2. J. HAYNE (8): I thought he was the Blues' best on the back of going looking for the football and then displaying his potent running game. He is a much better performer when he plays to his strength and isn't spending time at first receiver. On a number of occasions he popped up on the opposite side of the field and as a result was a constant menace.
3. M. JENNINGS (7.5): Blotted his copybook by being sin-binned but for the other 70 minutes was highly involved and looked at his blinding best. Was involved in a number of line busts and it was only great scrambling defence that denied him. Unfortunately being off the paddock for 10 minutes hurt the team and stopped its momentum. It needs to be a real lesson learnt.
4. J. MORRIS (6.5): Started the game strongly but Greg Inglis gradually gained the ascendancy the longer the contest went on. He also had few chances with the ball in hand and his relationship in defence with Akuila Uate will need to be addressed.
5. A. UATE (7): Copped a head knock which appeared to affect him to some degree but still managed to run the ball with his usual power. Did get caught in no-man's land on a couple of occasions and Queensland took full advantage putting Darius Boyd in for his double.
6. T. CARNEY (6.5): Very much a mixed performance by his standards with some really nice involvement countered by too many errors. Not putting the ball out on the full from a penalty was just one of a number of uncharacteristic mistakes. When the side was on their early roll he looked great.
7. M. PEARCE (7): Drifted a little in and out of the contest but I still liked the majority of what he produced. Still not finding that dominant performance that he has publicly stated that he is looking for but there is definitely never any lack of effort.
8. P. GALLEN (8): Another mighty showing from the skipper and I loved the way that he stood up for his team when he thought they were getting harshly treated. Another example of not losing his head through frustration but knuckling down to the task at hand. Plenty of carries and tackles and still going as strongly in the 80th minute.
9. R. FARAH (7.5): Continued his recent run of good form by coming up with another incisive and intelligent performance. Showed tremendous awareness in his dummy-half running and never missed an opportunity to scoot when the markers weren't in place. Kicked a lot more in general play than was expected.
10. J. TAMOU (7.5): An outstanding opening stint from the big man and he was one of the main reasons that the Blues enjoyed the early ascendancy. Has a very valuable ability to bend the opposition defence back when he takes the ball at the line and invariably attracts plenty of defenders when doing so. This is very advantageous to the next ball carrier.
11. G. STEWART (7): Toiled hard on the right fringe and it took some excellent defence from Johnathan Thurston and co. on that side to keep in check. He shapes as a player that is going to grow in stature as the series progresses and will be one of the men that the Maroons know must be constantly watched.
12. L. LEWIS (6.5): Struggled to put his imprint on the game and was relatively quiet by his standards. Picked up another burner to his troublesome shoulder late in the contest but I don't think it caused him too many problems. Just one of those rare games where he worked hard but failed to feature.
13. G. BIRD (7.5): His footwork troubled the opposition big men as did a couple of his off-loads. There were mistakes in his game but they are always made looking to do something positive for the team.
14. J. BUHRER (5): Very few minutes played so no real chance to have much of an impact. Had a brief stint as dummy-half during the second-half but was well contained.
15. T. MERRIN (7): A pretty decent effort off the bench that improved the longer the game went on. Good work rate but was unable to manufacture much second-phase play which is normally his strength but is also probably a wrap for the Maroons' defence.
16. B. CREAGH (6.5): Seemed to play much tighter than usual and his power running was met by plenty of bodies.
17. T. WILLIAMS (6): Like Buhrer, didn't see a lot of game time and was a handful on a number of occasions but it was more pushing away from the defence than being able to bust it. Obviously he was always going to better for the run.
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