There are serious concerns for NSW captain Isabelle Kelly after the superstar center was taken to hospital with a throat injury as Queensland held on to win 18-10 in the State of Origin women’s opener in Sydney.
The Maroons are in the box to claim the shield, but it’s far from over thanks to new rules introduced this year that see the series winner decided on aggregate after two games.
That’s little consolation for the Sky Blues who lost Kelly just before half time to a tackle likely to draw the ire of the match review committee.
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The NSW captain was trying to make a tackle on her Jillaroos teammate Julia Robinson but was elbowed square in the throat by her Queensland rival, who showed immediate concern.
Kelly felt immediate discomfort and struggled to breathe as two coaches carried her off the field.
“A bit of drama with Isabelle Kelly coming away with what seemed like a pretty nasty injury,” Fox League’s Lara Pitt said at halftime.
The incident was not penalized, but Robinson was reported after Tazmin Gray crashed to give the visitors a 10-6 halftime lead.
The Maroons picked up where they left off early in the second half when Shenae Ciesiolka intercepted a Jesse Southwall pass to run off, only to be run over by speedster Jaime Chapman.
However, Queensland capitalized quickly, spreading the ball to the left as Emily Bass scored to extend the lead before Robinson had her second try shortly after to bring the buffer to 12.
NSW moved within eight points when Chapman scored on his debut, with Southwell holding the ball well in the build-up and the young half-back impressed soon after to force a duff with a deft kick.
However, a mistake by Kezie Apps saw Sky Blues squander that chance and that proved to be a recurring theme for NSW who went down 18-10 in the end.
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QUEENS OF THE ANNOYING
It was far from clinical, but the Maroons are 70 minutes away from reclaiming the shield after the range outsiders proved too good in front of 12,972 fans at CommBank Stadium.
Robinson was the main destroyer with a try in each half for the Maroons against a NSW side who looked rushed on attack and struggled to execute their set pieces.
Thursday’s result means Queensland only have to avoid a nine-point defeat at Townsville in three weeks’ time, with their superior kicking game and poise under pressure making them heavy favourites.
His job could be made easier with Sky Blues star Sarah Togatuki on report for a lifting tackle.
CHAPMAN’S FAST CAR
Josh Addo-Carr faces stiff competition if he is to keep his title of fastest man on the planet, but there is no doubt in the women’s game with Jaime Chapman showing off his incredible speed to save a safe try.
Queensland looked sure to score when Shenae Ciesiolka intercepted a pass from Jesse Southwell and headed for the try line, but Chapman had other ideas.
Despite giving her rival a 10-metre lead, the NSW wing stepped on the gas and brought her down with a tackle that will be repeated for years.
It was all for naught, however, as Queensland switched it to the other side of the pitch where Emily Bass crashed to make it 14-6 five minutes into the second half.
Chapman was later rewarded when she crossed into the left corner to cap off an excellent Origin debut.
FIRST MINUTE MADNESS
We’ve seen some bad challenges over the years, but the Maroons may have raised the bar after they faltered in the first 60 seconds on Thursday night.
It’s a good thing the scores weren’t close in death because they blew a potential opportunity to overturn a bad decision with a brain snap just a few tackles into the contest.
Captain Ali Brigginshaw will have to think twice about trusting Shannon Mato after the prop ordered a challenge when he fumbled near the half.