Finch the
hero as Blues take the opener

State of Origin I
New South Wales Blues 17 v Queensland Maroons 16
at Telstra Stadium
Referee: Sean Hampstead

Match Summary:

In one of the more bizarre Origin clashes since it's beginnings in 1980, the 26th year of the format has kicked off with New South Wales claiming the first game in a nailbiter. The game finished with unlikely hero Brett Finch, rushed into the team at the eleventh hour after Craig Gower pulled up injured, kicking a match-winning field goal.

The Blues dominated Queensland for the entire first 40 minutes. Errors plagued the men from the north as NSW took advantage of poor defence and managed to score three tries before the break, first through Finch, who ran off a sensational break by King and then received the ball from Tahu, eventually scoring. King then crossed out wide after some sensational passing, and the Blues seemed on their way.

Willie Mason, one of NSW's best, then rampaged through a few Maroon defenders, and with Hodgson finally potting a conversion after missing two earlier attempts, the home side held a commanding 14-0 lead, which they took to halftime.

The halftime break was over and things looked much the same with an early Queensland error giving the NSW side another early chance. However, nothing too threatening came of it, or any plays from either side, until the 53rd minute, when the obligatory Queensland fightback began with a try to Greg Inglis.

Ten minutes later, NSW kicked a penalty goal - a decision viewed as bizarre by many, but ultimately saved them. Then, with eight minutes remaining, Queensland winger Inglis completed a double, and after a miss out wide for halfback Johnathon Thurston, the gap was six and an incredible finish was set-up.

A few dubious penalties and a couple of silly errors allowed Queensland ample field position late in the game. This ultimately led a great try in the corner to Maroons centre Steve Bell. Thurston kicked a great conversion to level the scores, and for all intents and purposes, yet another Origin game was heading to Golden Point.

With two minutes remaining, NSW somehow ended up with field position. And out of all people - Brett Finch, maligned by many, a last-minute inclusion in the Blues side, capped one of his finest games by kicking a match winning field goal from more than 30 metres out. Queensland had one final chance after a Blues drop ball, but moved the ball in the wrong direction.

In the end, NSW's best came from Mason, Finch, Anasta and Mark O'Meley. Inglis and Matt Bowen had great games for Queensland, while Thurston improved greatly after the halftime break. The only major injury news to come from either camp was rumoured torn ligaments in the hand of NSW and Cowboys lock Luke O'Donnell, who may miss a number of weeks.

NSW now lead the series 1-0, with the return match in Brisbane on June 14, followed by the series decide at Melbourne's Telstra Dome on July 5.

Scorers:
New South Wales: 17
Tries: Matt King, Brett Finch, Willie Mason
Goals: Brett Hodgson 2/4
Field Goals: Brett Finch
Queensland: 16
Tries: Greg Inglis(2), Steve Bell
Goals: Jonathon Thurston 2/3

Crowd: 72,773

By the Clock:
State of Origin 2006 is here. Plenty of selection and injury drama within the NSW Camp. Their lineup changes from the program, and is as follows:
1 Hodgson 2 King 3 Gasnier 4 Tahu 5 Grothe 6 Anasta 20 Finch 8 Mason 9 Buderus 10 Kite 17 Ryan 12 Hindmarsh 13 O'Donnell, with the bench of 11 Simpson 14 Wing 15 Menzies 16 O'Meley.
Finch comes in for the injured Gower, whilst Buderus is taking the field. Ryan swaps his bench spot for Steve Simpson, and will start in the second row.
Queensland side is as per program 1-17.

NSW to take the field very soon. The jersey numbers are black for the first time for the home side, as opposed to the traditional white. Final pep talks happening now, the atmosphere is building...

Queensland led out onto Telstra Stadium by Darren Lockyer, their captain - the fierce Blue crowd boos the boys from the north.
Buderus, NSW captain, leads the Blues out. Telstra Stadium explodes in blue.
The anthem has been sung....

0 min: NEWS We are underway, Queensland with the first set. A shocking kick is then dropped by Gasnier who jumped in with King getting the ball. QLD on the attack after 1 min.

4 min: NEWS NSW squash QLD's attempts at the line through some good work by Hodgson. At the end of their following set, Anasta gets a good kick in.
Queensland now with a penalty after Mason plays around in the play-the-ball.

6 min: NEWS NSW's great defence shines through again and they return the ball. Some superb hits, particularly from Cowboy Luke O'Donnell for the Blues.

7 min: NEWS An early interchange for NSW. O'Donnell off, Menzies on into Lock.

9 min: NEWS Mason called out for a high shot, although very dubious, looked to be around Thurston's upper chest. QLD on the attack again. Tackle not on report.

10 min: TRY New South Wales
Finch scores after a QLD error on the attack - King runs away down the sideline, turns it inside, the ball eventually coming to the halfback. Conversion for Brett Hodgson is unsuccessful.
NSW 4-0

15 min: NEWS Finch and Anasta defying critics with sensational kicking games. Blues heavy on the attack after forcing a repeat set.

17 min: TRY New South Wales
Some great work with fast passing to the right puts Matty King in the corner. Hodgson's kick again not easy, it goes wide again.
NSW 8-0

22 min: TRY New South Wales
Try to Willie Mason, he runs over the top of a number of Queensland defender before scoring in an easy spot for Hodgson to convert, which he does.
NSW 14-0

30 min: NEWS NSW simply dominating so far. Queensland have had few attacking opportunities but never really looked like crossing.
Mason is interchanged off, but looks like he's coming straight back on.

34 min: NEWS Mason replaces Hindmarsh and NSW are heavy on the attack again. A blue-wash is on the cards the way Queensland is playing at the moment.

39 min: NEWS Halftime approaches and QLD come close to scoring before the wing defence of Hodgson and Grothe throws Bell in touch.
The siren sounds and we're at the break.

HALFTIME
New South Wales 14 lead Queensland 0.
The home side is dominating every facet of the game at the moment, and Queensland are coming up with little in way of answers. Finch and Anasta have surprised thus far with their kicking games, while Bowen has been one shining light in an otherwise dull and worn-looking Maroon outfit. The defence from the boys in blue has been sensational thus far in front of this 75,000-odd crowd. Possession is exactly 50%-50% and the tackles only differ by 2, Queensland making 141 to NSW 139.
Second half underway soon.

Teams back on the park now... get ready for the second half. Can Queensland come back?

41 min: NEWS Second half has begun in Origin I, 2006

41 min: NEWS QLD error from the NSW downfield kick.
Blues heavy on the attack already.

42 min: NEWS Chance diffused after some silly play, but QLD drop the ball as well and it's back to NSW right on the line, attacking and offloading like it's the 80th minute and they're down by 2...

43 min: NEWS Wing puts a kick in on the last but it rolls dead and the pressure finally off the visitors. QLD making easy metres from the ensuing set, actually looking threatening.

46 min: NEWS QLD on the attack now, plenty of opportunity here. Ultimately no result as Murray's men return the ball, but Mason drops it and now Queensland have the ball ready to score.

49 min: NEWS - INJURY: Luke O'Donnell looks to be gone for the game - fractured thumb.

51 min: NEWS Queensland penalty after some biff between Hodges and Grothe. Maroons attacking 30m out.

52 min: NEWS Greg Inglis in... or not. Video Ref is being referred to. DECISION PENDING... TRY!

53 min: TRY Queensland
Inglis scores in the corner for Queensland and the Maroons finally get on the scoreboard. Thurston from the sideline... converts!
NSW 14-6

59 min: NEWS Queensland starting to get on top of things now, only trailing by 8, and NSW not threatening too much when with the ball.

63 min: PENALTY GOAL New South Wales
A Brett Hodgson penalty is put over the crossbar.
72,773 is the official crowd figure.
NSW 16-6

65 min: NEWS Video Ref decision for a Matt King try... Decision Pending... NO TRY. Gasnier's effort goes to waste but Inglis on his Melbourne team-mate King in defence has cost them a try. Queensland ball.

72 min: TRY Queensland
A sensational finish on it's way as Inglis goes in after a silly NSW error. Thurston from again the corner... his kick is wide. Six points in it now with eight minutes to go.
NSW 16-10

75 min: NEWS Queensland heavy on the attack following another Blues error by Grothe. Nailbiting stuff here!

76 min: NEWS Ball handed over, but now the touchies are in, alleged kick and punch. Queensland handed the penalty after Buderus was kicked in the head an retaliated! Controversy here!

76 min: NEWS Video Ref - possible Steve Bell try for the Maroons. DECISION PENDING... TRY!

77 min: TRY Queensland
Bell scores in the corner of the ensuing set. It's now up to Thurston to convert... he... CONVERTS!!!!
16 all.

78 min: NEWS Blues on the attack!

79 min: FIELD GOAL New South Wales
FIELD GOAL! BRETT FINCH!
BLUES LEAD BY ONE! One minute left. He has quite possibly won the game for the Blues.
NSW 17-16

80 min: NEWS NSW drop it with 25 seconds to go in Field goal position for Queensland! Tension is incredible!

AND THAT... is the game. Queensland unable to kick the field goal after running the short side from the scrum. New South Wales win Origin I by a single point - Brett Finch the hero.

FULLTIME
New South Wales 17 defeat Queensland 16.
In a truly unbelievable finish, Brett Finch has kicked the Blues home to a one point victory. Finch and Anasta had excellent kicking games in the first and some of the second half. Mason was outstanding for the Blues also, while Inglis and Bowen were shining lights in Queensland's efforts to claw back. Great work by Queensland to get back to level scores with minutes to go. Queensland did turn things around, but were close to pitiful in the first half. The Blues, however, need to scurb up for a full 80 minutes. Stay tuned on June 14 for Origin II, live on LeagueUnlimited from Suncorp Stadium.
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Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 - Brett Finch
2 - Willie Mason
1 - Greg Inglis
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