New South Wales suffered a fatal wound after eight minutes of Origin I but took plenty of time to die

It only took New South Wales eight minutes of State of Origin I to sustain a wound that proved fatal but the Blues took plenty of time to die.

From the moment Joseph-Aukuso Sua’ali’i levelled Reece Walsh in the opening stages at Stadium Australia and consigned himself to one of the unfortunate corners of Origin history, the game always became Queensland’s to lose.

It wasn’t until Ben Hunt’s try in the 66th minute that New South Wales were finally killed off. The Sua’ali’i send-off wasn’t quite a bullet to the head, more of a shot to the gut – which is arguably more painful because it lasts longer, there’s a lot more blood by the end and you’ll eventually end up dead all the same.

Getting at Walsh was clearly part of the plan because it had to be – after his first touch of the game, a clearing kick, Liam Martin hit him a little late and made sure Walsh knew about it.

If you leave Walsh to his own devices he can skin any team alive. Cutting down time and space is not recommended, it is essential.

That was likely the thinking behind Sua’ali’i’s tackle, which went so horribly wrong and gave referee Ashley Klein no choice.

The send off put us all into unfamiliar territory – there had never been a dismissal in the first half of an Origin match before, let alone inside the first ten minutes. We all plunged off the edge of the map.

Initially, the Blues were quicker on the uptake. That can happen with a send off – the undermanned team, aggrieved at being reduced to 12, fire up and get by on defiance and adrenaline for a while.

Sua’ali’i’s dismissal took all the air out of Stadium Australia and James Tedesco’s try got everybody moving again but a miracle was never really in the offing.

Centre isn’t just one of the most difficult places to defend on a rugby league field, it’s also the hardest position to cover when you’re a man short because of the combination of smarts and physicality required.

Initially, the Blues didn’t make any switch at all – Nicho Hynes and Martin were trying to cover the space of three men and Queensland went right after it.

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