Despondent Smith and Cronk look ahead to game two

Match Report: Fifita stars as Blues smash MaroonsPlayer Ratings: How New South Wales faredPlayer Ratings: How Queensland fared
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After one of the more shocking Origin results in recent memory, Queensland’s senior players were frank in their assessment of the Maroons’ performance.

Fresh off missing a combined 58 tackles as a team and being thoroughly outplayed, Queensland skipper Cameron Smith pulled no punches.

“It’s very disappointing,” he said. “The Blues played with a lot of energy tonight and you can’t afford to give up cheap points like we did tonight.

“Our defence let us down tonight. We just didn’t have enough energy around the middle early.”

The veteran of 40 Origin games said it was “back to the drawing board” as Kevin Walters’ men were left searching for answers in a crushing loss.

“The challenge gets a little bit harder now,” Smith said. “We travel to Sydney next game and it’s a must-win for us.”

Smith’s fellow Melbourne Storm star Cooper Cronk was more philosophical, giving credit to NSW.

“That was one of the toughest halves of football I’ve played in a long time, that first half,” he said.

Despite a host of key personnel missing for the Maroons – Greg Inglis and Johnathan Thurston due to injury, and Billy Slater not selected – Cronk made no excuses.

“I thought we had a red-hot crack, and sometimes you’ve just gotta tip your hat to the opposition – they were really good tonight.,” he said.

“There’s no excuses. We just didn’t have those moments to give us the ascendancy in the match.”

Kevin Walters agreed, praising the opposition rather than pointing the finger at his own troops.

“I thought in the first half we competed really well, but there were some telling signs,” he said.

“They were too strong, they played really well … way too good for us tonight.”

He found special praise for the Blues’ defence, which was stout right until the final whistle, particularly in a pair of second-half moments where Josh Dugan and James Tedesco produced try-saving tackles.

“A couple of times we got close to scoring, but they somehow found a body there, particularly the Matt Gillett one,” Walters said.

“That was a really thorough performance from the Blues … I’m sure that we’ll bounce back and make a contest of it.”

The series shifts to ANZ Stadium in the three weeks with the Blues looking to claim their first series win since 2014 and just their second since 2006.

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Andrew Fifita on song as Blues dominate Origin I

Match Report: Fifita stars as Blues smash MaroonsPlayer Ratings: How New South Wales faredPlayer Ratings: How Queensland fared
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Andrew Fifita, take a bow. It was the night the controversial prop finally stamped his authority on the Origin arena.

With a performance Arthur Beetson would have been proud of, Fifita solidified his place as the game’s premier front-rower – producing an inspired outing to lead the Blues to a 28-4 win in the opening game at Suncorp Stadium.

Almost three years to the day Jarryd Hayne earned praise for producing arguably the best individual performance in NSW history on the same ground, Fifita put his name up in lights alongside him with a try and a try assist on a night that is likely to be remembered as the changing of the guard in Origin.

No Johnathan Thurston, no Greg Inglis, no Matt Scott, no chance … apparently. And judging by the dominance of NSW in game one, it appears the curtains are closing on a dynasty that many believe rugby league won’t ever see again.

The 27-year-old Fifita, who has earned his fair share of detractors after his controversial support of one-punch killer Kieran Loveridge, was public enemy No.1 in Brisbane before a ball was even kicked.

That certainly didn’t change after full-time after terrorising Queensland with a barnstorming display that included nine tackle breaks and almost 200 metres in his first Origin appearance in the run-on side in eight games for NSW.

Fifita was far and away the best player on the field, but Blues fullback James Tedesco put aside a season to forget to leave Suncorp Stadium with the tag as the second best player on the paddock in NSW’s biggest win in enemy territory.

In just his second game in Origin, Tedesco proved almost impossible to stop, bagging a try and setting up another as he rediscovered his mojo.

But it was his never-say-die attitude in defence, saving a couple of tries with his relentless pursuit of the ball carrier, which would please coach Laurie Daley the most.

Like they did in 2014 when they last won an Origin series, the Blues will head to ANZ Stadium looking to wrap up the series after a victory on away soil. Three years ago, in the corresponding game of the series, Hayne etched his name into the history books with a performance for the ages.

This time it was Fifita.

In 2014 Hayne carried NSW on his shoulders to a drought-breaking series victory the last time he donned the blue jersey.

But the superstar status he left the game in possession of has eroded over the thousand odd days since he last walked out on to the Origin arena. It took him 34 minutes, but Hayne showed he still possesses the superstar qualities when he bumped off a few defenders and produced an incredible offload to send Brett Morris into open space.

However his defensive deficiencies were also exposed, making a poor read in defence in the set of six that led to Queensland’s first try to Corey Oates off a Cooper Cronk kick.

Hayne was picked based on the contribution he has made to the jersey in the past, and a hope that it would contribute to Hayne rediscovering something from the past.

It was the opposite for Mitchell Pearce. There’s not much from the past the Blues wanted him remembering.

Unfortunately, after a sickening collision with Will Chambers early in the second half, there won’t be much from Wednesday night’s game Pearce will remember.

But when he sits down to watch the replay, the heavily scrutinised Blues halfback will reflect on a moment to savour when he combined with future Roosters teammate Tedesco to give the Blues a 12-4 lead on the stroke of half-time before his night came to a premature end.

In the early exchanges of the second half, NSW transformed a dominant start into a unassailable lead when Fifita and Tedesco both crossed.

Queensland, unlike in previous campaigns, had no answer.

Hayne redeemed himself for his first-half defensive lapse and in the process took a walk down memory lane, leaping into Blatchey’s Blues when he scored NSW’s fifth try mid-way through the second half.

Debutant Nathan Peats braved a quad injury to prove he has the physical and mental toughness to belong in Origin.

But that was overshadowed by Fifita. The villain turned hero.

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Fears for global climate action as Trump eyes Paris exit

The pending exit of the US from the Paris climate agreement – barring a last-minute reversal by President Donald Trump – marks a significant setback to global efforts to curb climate change.
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As the second-biggest emitter of the greenhouse gases that are cooking the planet, the US move to ditch the 2015 accord will send a signal to waverers among the remaining 194 signatory nations that they too no longer need to abide by their pollution reduction pledges.

Reactions to the prospect of a US withdrawal from the Paris pact to keep global warming to between 1.5 and 2 degrees compared with pre-industrial levels ranged from the Sierra Club calling it a “historic mistake”, while free market think tank, The Heritage Foundation, said it would show Trump’s “resolute leadership” and save the US economy trillions of dollars.

For now both Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Josh Frydenberg, the environment and energy minister, are showing no inclination to weaken Australia’s commitment to cut 2005 level emissions 26-28 per cent by 2030, as promised in Paris.

“I think there is still very broad-base support for the commitments that were made and certainly Australia takes its international commitment seriously,” Frydenberg told Sky earlier this week. The PM has said “when Australia makes a commitment to a global agreement, we follow through and that is exactly what we are doing”.

But the Turnbull government can be expected to come under renewed pressure from right-wing Coalition MPs and their media boosters to follow Trump’s lead if the US pulls out.

To be sure, Trump seeking to trash the Paris deal isn’t entirely a surprise given he campaigned on that course, famously tweeting that climate change was a “hoax” concocted by the Chinese to undermine the US economy.

But Trump has broken any number of promises in his four months in office (including taking a tough stance against China on trade). And the reported pro-environment overtures by his daughter Ivanka and even Pope Francis’ personal appeal during last week’s visit to the Vatican stoked hopes Paris might get a last-minute reprieve.

The consequences of a Paris without America will take time to play out. Some analysts had worried that a US administration hell-bent on boosting fossil fuel industries might have become a wrecker if left within the treaty – a type of Saudi Arabia on steroids.

The impact on Paris would not only be confined to the bad example set by a nation responsible for about a quarter of accumulated carbon emissions. The existing Paris commitments only curb warming to about 2.5 to 3 degrees, and nations are supposed to ratchet their emissions trajectory lower at five-year intervals to meet the sub-2 degree goal.

As the richest nation, the US was expected to provide a sizeable chunk of the US$100 billion ($134 billion) a year in public and private financial flows to developing nations by 2020. The funds would help them cut emissions and adapt to the changing climate which they had done little to cause, but are often the most vulnerable to.

With less chance of those funds being found, many of those poorer nations will be unable to commit to greater climate action even if they were willing.

As Stefan Rahmstorf – head of Earth System Analysis at Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research – stresses, there is a given budget of greenhouse gases that can be emitted to keep warming under 2 degrees to avoid dangerous climate change.

“The more we have emitted in total, the warmer it will be – with all the detrimental impacts, from sea-level rise to extreme weather to dying corals,” he tells me. “If the US uses more of this budget, others can use less.”

Ahead of the expected Trump exit, some analysts were pinning hopes on the European Union – suddenly needing to become a lot more united amid Britain’s planned exit and increasingly fraught ties with the Trump administration – teaming up with China to reinvigorate the Paris agreement.

The US, they say, will have far more to lose by abandoning the huge emerging energy technologies, particularly for renewables and storage. Moreover, the US would be inviting retaliation in the form of “carbon tariffs” on its exports to markets of those remaining in the Paris accord.

But as Malte Meinshausen, director of Melbourne University’s Climate & Energy College, notes the damage from such a move would be unlikely to be contained to climate-only matters.

“The damage to the international diplomatic multilateral system within the UN will be substantial – and outweighing the potential benefits that an US withdrawal from Paris might have [compared to a residing, but destructive US],” Professor Meinshausen says. “That can play out in peace talks, economic cooperation, WTO, et cetera.

“The potential ramifications of undermining a globally almost-unified response to a common challenge by a ‘rogue superpower’ are hard to predict at this point,” he says.

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Maroons won’t be rushed into changes as careers on the line

Match Report: Fifita stars as Blues smash MaroonsPlayer Ratings: How New South Wales faredPlayer Ratings: How Queensland fared
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Maroons coach Kevin Walters says his side won’t rush into any changes despite being on the end of a battering as NSW steamrolled their way to a 1-0 lead in the State of Origin series.

The Blues can wrap up the season in Sydney after a 28-4 victory at Suncorp Stadium, dominating virtually every facet of play in what many have interpreted as the end of Queensland’s wondrous era.

Walters and selectors Darren Lockyer and Gene Miles will now be under pressure to introduce some new blood for game two, particularly in the forwards. Jarrod Wallace and Cowboys youngster Coen Hess will come into contention in the pack, as will Billy Slater and Valentine Holmes in the backs.

Walters said he wasn’t sure if Johnathan Thurston would return but doubted he would have been able to turn back the sea of blue in Brisbane as Andrew Fifita left a trail of destruction in the middle of the field and James Tedesco and Jarryd Hayne added the finishing flourishes.

“It was a disappointing night. We got a bit of a lesson about Origin football and how it should be played. They gave us nothing in the first half. That try was a big turning point in the game. That lifted their spirits and put a big dent in ours. We got a bit of a lesson tonight,” Walters said.

“I’m not sure about John. He’ll have to get back to his club doctors. We’re hopeful of getting him for game two. All due respect, I think if he was out there the scoreline would have been closer. But they were pretty dominant through the middle and he doesn’t play there.”

The burning question now for the Maroons is even if they make changes, which look a must on that evidence, do they have the big bodies to fight fire with fire?

“We’re going to find out in game two,” Walters said. “Our boys have to get back to their clubs and work on the little things in their game. That’s the plan.”

And in trying to curtail the movements of Fifita: “We couldn’t seem to handle him too well. He was pretty potent.”

Walters said they would now turn to club form to see who may step into the breach. Nate Myles suffered an elbow injury but looks vulnerable, as does centre Justin O’Neill, a defensive centre that managed to miss eight tackles.

Aidan Guerra and Jacob Lillyman will also be fighting for their Origin careers.

“We’ll make some smart decisions, informed decisions around game two,” Walters said.

Maroons captain Cameron Smith offered up no excuses, saying NSW were far too good and gave them no opportunities to get into the contest for any length of time.

“We all wanted it to be a special night but you can’t win every game. We’ve lost this one. We accept that and see where we can be better. We need to be. We weren’t good enough.”

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Men of substance make their mark

Match Report: Fifita stars as Blues smash MaroonsPlayer Ratings: How New South Wales faredPlayer Ratings: How Queensland fared
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This promised to be a strange hole-in- the-donut kind of Origin, more noteworthy for absences than the thing in itself.

New South Wales’ pre-match favouritism owed less to the 34 players who were on the field than to four Queenslanders – Johnathan Thurston, Greg Inglis, Matt Scott and Billy Slater – who were not. The build-up was marked by a lack: of rats, of filth, of ticket sales. The match was initiated by silence for the lost Queensland policeman Brett Forte. In the context of the series, this night was merely a trigger for what would happen next: for both teams, losing would mean the end of two or three Origin careers.

There was an emptiness waiting for someone to fill. These absences were matters of bluff and indirection. NSW came to Brisbane with immense confidence based on something other than results. Queensland came with some out-of- form players, a comfort in underdoggery and an earned aura. Whose disguise was more convincing?

Enter rugby league. Substance reasserted itself against the void. Dylan Napa and the unquestionably substantial Josh Papalii hurtled into a Blue wall. Illusions were replaced by collisions. Aaron Woods, Andrew Fifita and Tyson Frizell replied in kind, and not with kindness.

The contest between substance and absence decides these matches. In the seventh minute, there was the ghostly Fifita that Nate Myles went to tackle, as opposed to the actual Fifita who slipped by and set up James Maloney for the opening try. For the first 20 minutes, the penalties and dropped balls that did not occur, the stoppages that did not slow the game down, allowed the game to cascade faster and faster, unobstructed by workaday NRL mistakes and the ritual tweets of over-zealous refereeing.

It was soon apparent that these absences were producing a game of the highest calibre. Every player, on both sides, came with his best – but how long could he sustain it?

The game entered its second quarter with a new set of absences: the supercolliders Napa, Myles, Woods and Fifita all taken off, fatigue enlarging the spaces on Lang Park. Cameron Smith put his outside backs through a Jarryd Hayne-shaped hole before Blake Ferguson jumped for an aerial ball that was not there, instead of the one Corey Oates was catching.

Queensland were back in it until, in perhaps the pivotal moment, Mitchell Pearce’s non-kick on the fifth tackle sparked a move that he was able to finish.

As the second half unfolded, again the absences were telling: cognition from Pearce and Anthony Milford, sending both playmakers off the field. And then finally it was an emptiness in Maroon. Not enough tacklers, not enough time.

Like a sculpture chipped out of a block, what was taken away ultimately revealed what was undeniably present. The NSW confidence was not a magic trick, but belief based on a solid mass of skill and spirit. History belongs to those who turn up. Long after the absentees are forgotten, this match will leave memories of a rampant Fifita leading a gang of equals who came and came and came until Queensland melted away. Perhaps, looking forward, certain moments in the scoreless final quarter will be the most significant.

Smith implored his men to fight back and score the last points. But the flying James Tedesco became a retaining wall of defence who denied Queensland access twice in a minute and might as well have been a forcefield across his own try-line. Josh Dugan’s final slap on the ball could have been a slap in Queensland’s face. Boyd Cordner, quietly effective in every way, inserted himself between ball and line. Queensland did not get that final try.

And that last stanza produced perhaps the most poignant dressing-room shot in Origin history: the long maligned Pearce embracing his father Wayne in triumph ??? with 25 minutes still to go. Against Queensland. At Lang Park. That wasn’t nothing. That was something.

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