“Earlier on in the year, I think he [Walsh] ended up with a broken jaw and there was no send-off, so it’s a big call at this level,” Maguire said. “I mean, [the] tackle – he was falling. But again, I’ll have to have another look at it. But I think it’s a massive call for a game like this.”

Slater would not be drawn on the incident: “I’ll keep my feelings about that to myself,” he said.

The merits of the send-off will be debated until kick-off in game two (as will appeals for a penalty following a potential hip drop on Spencer Leniu), but the effect on the texture of the game was immediate and irrevocable.

For a time, Tedesco and Zac Lomax were on separate planets. Hynes filled in at hooker and lost whatever confidence he had left. The Cronulla talisman, who has not had an enjoyable time on this stage so far, missed the conversion for the Blues’ second try and then cut a figure of lightly concealed terror under the pressure of the occasion. Mitchell Moses, who returned to the NRL field last week after 10 weeks on the sidelines, will be finger-steepling in front of a television somewhere in Sydney’s west.

Daly Cherry-Evans makes a break during game one.

Daly Cherry-Evans makes a break during game one.Credit: Getty

Maguire had faced some pre-game criticism for not selecting a utility on his bench. Stephen Crichton did eventually shift from the left to the right, but the game was already getting away from the hosts. The situation also meant Trbojevic was subbed off after the opening five minutes and only returned for five minutes at the end.

“I don’t think anyone’s ever planned for a send-off in an Origin game,” Maguire said. “So we had all our rotations, everything covered. Huddo [Hudson Young] went out there in the centres, and we had Angus [Crichton] out in the centres at some stage, and they actually covered that really well. But when you’re 12 men, your middle is just working that hard.”

Meanwhile, Slater looked as if he was literally making magic, walking out of his coaching box and down to the sideline to mutter incantations (directions) to Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, before walking straight back up to his box. The stand-in fullback duly pulled on his invisibility cloak and went wandering – a supernatural ninja of deception who scored twice before the break.


NSW stayed in the fight as long as possible. Tedesco had got them on the board in the 13th minute. And Leniu, a Blues standout after coming off the bench, went over himself but could not for the life of him ground the ball with Tabuai-Fidow under him. It was that kind of night.

The players had not even made it back onto the field for the second half before Sportsbet had suspended betting on a Queensland win. As logic would dictate, that occurred before Lomax rediscovered his spark to link up with Liam Martin and cut the deficit to 20-10. There was still time. Martin said so with a tackle to rival them all. The whole team said so when they survived three set restarts on their goal-line.

There was still time – until there wasn’t. Until Hunt went over for his second and Xavier Coates blew out the scoreline to 32-10. Then Tabuai-Fidow, sensing a record, made it 38-10 with two minutes remaining for Queensland’s biggest win in Sydney.

“I’ve been in this circumstance before, so I know exactly what we’ll do,” said Maguire, who now has a mountain to climb. “Obviously talk to the players and you have 13 players out there, the whole game’s a different ball game. So I’m really confident in where the players are taking what we’re doing.”

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