By Alicia Newton
Queensland star Cameron Munster stole the show as the Maroons spoiled NSW’s return to Accor Stadium, upsetting the Blues 16-10 to take a 1-0 series lead.
In front of 80,512 fans at Sydney’s Olympic Park, the Maroons, led by Munster, Daly Cherry-Evans and debutant Patrick Carrigan, dominated on their own terms with big moment plays helping Queensland to a special win.
The Blues enjoyed the field possession early to take a 4-0 lead but the injection of Carrigan in the 15th minute swung momentum Queensland’s way and from there the visitors came up with points and the defensive efforts late as NSW struggled to take any control in the match.
Carrigan upstaged Broncos teammate Payne Haas and the remainder of his Blues teammates and brought Munster, who was at his usual roaming best, and Cherry-Evans, who scored a decisive try in the second half, into the game.
Munster ignited the contest in the second half as the Maroons took a 6-4 lead into the break with a piece of individual brilliance, where he fended off four defenders mid-field before breaking the line to spark the Maroons in enemy territory.
He then produced a special one-on-one strip on Stephen Crichton with minutes remaining to ensure the Maroons secured the result, their first under new coach Billy Slater and following their 2-1 series loss last year.
Both Munster and Cherry-Evans were well-supported by Ben Hunt and Harry Grant at the ruck while debutant winger Selwyn Cobbo finished with 162 metres and a try assist for the match.
A game-ending leg injury to Xavier Coates had the Maroons on the back foot for the second half but the visitors rallied in defence as NSW began to charge home in the final quarter of the game.
Blues coach Brad Fittler sprung a double change to the line-up with Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Liam Martin promoted to start, shifting Blues regulars Cameron Murray and Junior Paulo to the bench.
However, the switch didn’t come off for the Blues with Fittler now expected to review his side ahead of a must-win Origin II game in Perth.