Under the blanket of a deafening roar at Stadium Australia, Queensland and New South Wales played a match for centuries to open the 2022 State of Origin series.
It was rough, it was done, it was a mix of exciting offense and desperate defense, and it was exactly what we were all hoping for to open the series.
Pure rugby league magic.
From Jack Wighton’s opener to Cameron Munster dancing his way into the hearts of Queensland, these were the five big moments that stole the spotlight.
14th minute: A Wighton Christmas
After Xavier Coates was a whisker away from cutting and running back – but knocking on it instead – New South Wales got the ball back and executed it slick.
Damien Cook started it by tapping a ball from the dummy half to Nathan Cleary, who passed it to old buddy Jarome Luai, who then got it to Wighton.
Wighton duly divided the Maroons’ defenses, proving once and for all that any debate about him from the middle was wasted air.
“Just look at Damien Cook’s pass. It’s like a bullet,” said blues legend Andrew Johns.
“And he passes three Queensland defenders and creates space on the outside.”
In an opener where it was not clear which team had the upper hand, it is a moment of tension relief for the Stadium Australia crowd.
30th minute: The Coates who rocked
While the Maroons appeared to be recovering from the early attempt, high-flyer Coates got his ankle stuck under a tackle in a ‘look away if you’re not nauseous at all’.
While the Storm attack machine luckily managed to pick itself up off the grass, it limped around like an elderly man for a while before collapsing on the sidelines.
At the 30th minute, the call is finally made – Coates is done.
He limps into the tunnel and the Queenslanders lose an assault weapon for the rest of the game.
38th minute: The debutante ball
While doctors were still checking to make sure no parts of Coates’ ankle were left in the Sydney turf, Queensland had to go elsewhere for offensive inspiration – and it came in the form of debutant Selwyn Cobbo.
The boy from Cherbourg — whose story was beautifully told in this piece for ABC Sport — showed the attitude of a veteran after coming to the end of a slightly sloppy Kalyn Ponga pass.
Tiptoeing along the sidelines with a dancer’s feet, Cobbo just avoided a diving Luai tackle to get a nimble kick in the path of Origin specialist Dane Gagai.
The try is Gagai’s 12th in Maroon colors to tie him in third place on most goals scored for Queensland, alongside Billy Slater and Dale Shearer, and most importantly, the front team en route to the half.
47th minute: The Munster puree
With the Blues starting the half as the more dangerous of the two teams, the Maroons go on the attack but stop about halfway down the field.
Enter Cameron Munster.
The Storm superstar dodges, dives, dives, and dodges around the Blues’ defenses to break them apart, penetrate the ground and make a crucial breakthrough.
While unable to go himself or load up to any of his Maroon mates, it puts New South Wales at a disadvantage. They eventually pass the ball to a scrum, which Daly Cherry-Evans takes advantage of to score the crucial opening attempt of the half.
Later, Munster will strip the ball from the Blues in the 73rd minute as they ride a wave of momentum off the back of an attempt by Cameron Murray. It might just be the match-saver in a magician’s stunning performance.
53rd minute: King Kalyn reigns again
With all the momentum in the Maroons’ favor, Ponga is reminding why he belongs in a Maroon jersey.
Ponga comes to the end of a Harry Grant pass, dances forward and looks wide. He could take the safe option of handing it over to Kurt Capewell, but decides to go ahead and risk it for the cookie.
Valentine Holmes gets to the end of a pass and scores, along with Alfie Langer on 10 tries for his state.
It provides the buffer the Maroons need to take out the Blues and takes Queensland to a crucial opening game victory.