Newcastle Knights coach, and proud Queenslander, Wayne Bennett enjoyed the State of Origin spectacle despite the result going against the Maroons 12-8 at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night.
“There has been that many close games in the last two series where Queensland probably got away with a couple of them, but this time it went New South Wales’ way,” Bennett said on Thursday.
“There was very little between the teams.”
It was on Bennett's trip north to Brisbane on Wednesday that he was reminded of the passion the Origin series evokes.
“It was electric as usual at Suncorp last night but I haven’t experienced an atmosphere quite like we had on our flight from Newcastle,” he explains.
“Danny Buderus was with me, there was quite a lot of NSW supporters and also a few Queenslanders, and I have to say the atmosphere was quite humbling.
“When we got to the other end in Brisbane, it was there as well, plenty of fun and banter and it reminded me what a great concept Origin is and what it means to so many people.”
Bennett was impressed with the way his two players performed in the tough encounter, Beau Scott for NSW and Darius Boyd for Queensland.
“Beau’s defence was really good," he said.
"He missed a tackle there that could have been a bit costly but they managed to clean it up.
“Outside of that he was outstanding; the amount of times he was either leading the way in defence, third man in, second man in and wrapping the ball up.
“You watch your own players harder than anyone else and you can be a harsh critic on them as well, but I thought he was really good.
“Darius was good too, he is a wonderful winger. He is a very talented player and can play any position in that backline.
“He really had to work hard for one of his tries, he did a good job to get over the line and probably could have had three on the night only to be denied that last one.
“His running game was good, he was solid, linking up with Billy (Slater) and looking for opportunities.”
Boyd’s two-try performance comes after being criticised for his form at the Knights since returning from injury in Round 4.
“Everyone has their own opinion on people, mine is that Darius has been a high performing player for a long period of time,” Bennett explained.
“He had a slow start to our season, injury set him back and we weren’t playing well when he did get back.
“He has had his moments and it has been the toughest patch I have seen him play.
“He was really good in our last game against Manly and I think he is on his way back, he is getting his form back.
“It happens to players, it has happened to every player I have ever coached.”
As for Bennett’s thoughts on game two at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday June 18?
“It will be just as fiercely contested,” he offers.
“If one team is just off with their commitment that will be the difference between these two teams.
“They come in with two different mindsets; Queensland knowing they can’t afford to lose and NSW knowing they have one in the bag, and it is how they both handle that.
“It sets it up for a great game in Sydney and you wouldn’t want to miss it.”
Scott, who accepted an early plea on Thursday for a grade one dangerous tackle, and Boyd will be assessed before traveling with the team to New Zealand on Friday.
(Photo credit: NSW Rugby League)