Sky Blues win series opener with 22-12 victory at Suncorp Stadium


The Sky Blues are in the box seat to take out the inaugural three-game women’s State of Origin series after a convincing 22-12 victory over Queensland in the series opener at Suncorp Stadium.

Behind enemy lines, the Sky Blues shrugged off concerns prompted by a new halves combination and lack of competitive matches in the lead-up to Thursday night.

The Sky Blues celebrate their game one victory.

The Sky Blues celebrate their game one victory.Credit: Getty

Coach Kylie Hilder, who walked into the press conference room beaming alongside skipper Isabelle Kelly, said it was a faultless performance from her team.

“It was just an outstanding team performance,” Hilder said. “Couldn’t fault anyone. Everyone got out there tonight and just did their job and turned up for each other. Really, really proud of the effort of the girls tonight.”

The Sky Blues rode a powerful 14-0 first half to victory and now have the chance to close out the historic series with a game in hand when they host the Maroons in Newcastle on June 6.

Hilder said starting fast had been a focus in camp all week.

“We like to start fast, but I would have to say that our defence was more of a focus than our attack, to be honest. We really wanted to make sure that our defence was strong tonight, and that was our priority, and it was just about completing sets and turning up for each other in defence.”

The coach’s surprise call to replace teen sensation Jesse Southwell with veteran halfback Rachael Pearson proved a masterstroke.

The 30-year-old drilled a dropout to the sideline that signalled the beginning of NSW’s first-half dominance before a record women’s Origin crowd of 25,492.

Rachael Pearson was impressive on Thursday night.

Rachael Pearson was impressive on Thursday night.Credit: Getty

Pearson continued to kick deftly, showing little sign of the calf injury that had hampered her this month, and made a try-saving one-on-one tackle on Tarryn Aiken in the second half as Queensland stormed back into the game.

Hilder said she knew all along that she made the right decision picking Pearson over Southwell.

“I thought Rachael was outstanding. Both our halves, Racahel and Corbin, did their jobs and did exactly what I asked them to, did exactly what we expected them to do, and [it] was the reason I picked them in thos positions,” she said.

The experienced Maroons had no answers when the visitors shifted the ball at break-neck speed early on.

Jaime Chapman scores for the Sky Blues.

Jaime Chapman scores for the Sky Blues.Credit: Getty

Gold Coast centre Jaime Chapman was outstanding on the wing, first tearing away on the line break that put the Sky Blues in position for Emma Tonegato to open the scoring, before she stepped inside Emily Bass and burned reigning Dally M Medallist Tamika Upton to run 80 metres and score from a kick return.

“It’s really good to have someone like Jaime Chapman on your team when she’s got that speed, but all our outside backs [were great],” Hilder said.

“I’m really blessed with the back five that I have, the metres they get and put us on the front foot every time, and then we get our forward pack to finish it off.”

The Maroons enjoyed plenty of football after the break and threatened to chase the visitors down, with Upton stepping over for the Maroons’ first try after being well contained to that point.

Shortly after Emma Manzelmann spilt the ball ahead of what could have been their second, Johnston struck back for NSW. Emily Bass scored a late-try for the Maroons, but it proved too little too late, with the damage done in the first half.

With AAP



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