Gagai drop ball: Were Queensland robbed?
QUEENSLAND were up in arms at the time when Dane Gagai was ruled to have dropped the ball in the second half of the Maroons 22-12 Game I loss.
The Maroons were leading 12-8 in the 46th minute and had all the momentum, but Gagai lost the ball in a tackle from Angus Crichton and the Blues got the scrum.
The Blues then scored off the ensuing set, with Latrell Mitchell scoring his first Origin try to level the scores and Queensland didn't score again in the second half.
Opinion was divided on the incident after the match, but it was clearly a momentum-changing play that affected the course of the match.
The referees were notable for their lack of involvement in the contest, with the two on-field officials only really coming in to play to check if tries were scored.
They were the biggest pre-State of Origin talking point, but the NRL's referees had their quietest game all year in the series opener at the MCG.
Just a combined five penalties were blown across the Blues' 22-12 win - with none coming in the final 53 minutes - 12 less than the season average of 17.
NSW weren't penalised for the final 76 minutes of the match.
James Maloney was the sole offender after being pinged for off-side in just the fourth minute. It meant plenty of ball in play and a real battle of attrition, with the only stoppages at the MCG in the second half coming for tries, bunker calls and the odd error.
"I thought they were good, I thought they were really good," Queensland coach Kevin Walters said of the officials.
"We thought there might have been a few more penalties, but 4-1, that's the way it goes at Origin.
"We've probably got to look at ourselves there and get better for Origin II."
Realistically, there weren't a lot of controversial moments for the referees to rule on in the series opener, but the Gagai tackle was clearly one of them.
Gagai fumed after he was ruled to have dropped the ball in the Crichton tackle when it appeared the error may have been assisted by a Blues hand.
Queensland led 12-8 at the time, but by their next play-the-ball trailed 18-12.
"Those little calls go your way and go against you," Walters said.
"On this occasion it could've gone either way.
"It went NSW's way and then we just weren't quite good enough to defend that set."
Blues coach Brad Fittler was far more forthright in his views.
"He dropped the ball. He should have been better," he said.
"I don't think there were many things the referees had to rule on.
"There was the Gagai one and the Maloney forward pass was a 50-50 call against us and they scored just after that.
"Outside that I think it was pretty clear-cut. There wasn't many questionable decisions. They did a good job."