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What a ripper of a match we had on Wednesday night. It was without doubt one of the most exciting opening matches that I can remember. Queensland have pretty much made winning at Suncorp a sure thing over the last decade, so taking that game was an important step to finally bringing the shield south of the border. Jarryd Hayne was absolutely phenomenal and his effort last night will have to go down as one of the great Origin performances.
My focus this week will be on the halves, or more specifically one from each side. I am referring to Daly Cherry-Evans and Josh Reynolds and how each of them will have an impact on game two in three weeks time.
Queensland looked ominous at the start of origin I and when Boyd went over early all signs were pointed to another Queensland victory. All that changed the moment Cooper Cronk went off with an arm injury. The momentum shifted New South Wales' way and they stormed home to take a half time lead. Now Queensland don't lose much with Daly Cherry-Evans coming on the field, with many believing he should have been picked ahead of Cronk in the first place (being a Manly tragic I was one of these people). By the end of the match it was plain to see Cronk's importance to the side, Daly didn't play badly but he just didn't have the impact that Cronk usually does. If Cronk doesn't get injured then the Maroons may well have won the match.
Now I have to stick up for Daly a bit here, as he wasn't expecting to being playing first receiver. He had been training to play as a ball playing lock towards the back end of each half. The team would have done all its training with Cronk at halfback and all their set plays would revolve around Cronk and Thurston taking the lead. Daly didn't look like he had struck up enough combinations with his teammates yet to be dominant. I even recall one incident where he signaled for McQueen to wrap around him, which got lost in translation. There isn't much you can do when your runners aren't following your calls. The seriousness of Cronk's injury means that Daly will have a full ten days next origin camp to build combinations with the team and I expect a much more inspired performance from him in origin II.
On the other side of the field, Josh Reynolds had a good game for New South Wales and proved he has what it takes to be a starting origin half. In Reynolds and Hodkinson we might have finally found a combination that can lead New South Wales to a series victory. The one downside to Reynolds performance was his ugly looking tackle on Brent Tate. While Beau Scott's involvement did escalate the tackle Reynolds was the player that put Tate in a dangerous position. Luckily for him and his state he was given a downgrade so he will be available to play in the second game now. This is a massive let off for New South Wales and allows us to continue with the same spine.
The bruising nature of the contest means that there may be a few changes to both sides. There are injury concerns to both teams with Josh Morris and Anthony Watmough both in doubt for NSW with Laurie Daley also having to find a place for Greg Bird as well. On the maroon side of things Cronk's injury and DCE's elevation into the starting side leaves the door open for a new utility, the idea of Anthony Milford coming on as defenders are tired is a scary one for New South Wales fans. Josh Papali and Chris McQueen's poor form this season could also put a question mark on their positions. The likes of Dave Taylor, Jacob Lillyman and Brenton Lawrence would all have their fingers crossed. There are also reports that Cam Smith and Billy Slater could be in doubt as well and Sam Thaiday should be back for the next game too. No matter who walks out on to the field on June 18 it is shaping to be another blockbuster and hopefully come 10pm New South Wales will have ended the nine year drought.