Nathan Cleary takes the blame after New South Wales' 'reality check' defeat against Queensland

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Nathan Cleary takes the blame after New South Wales’ ‘reality check’ defeat against Queensland – as Maroons’ no-nonsense tactics to stop Blue stars in Origin I are revealed

  • Queensland defeated New South Wales 16-10 in State of Origin opener in Sydney
  • Nathan Cleary had an uncharacteristically poor game for the Blues
  • Penrith halfback was repeatedly hassled and hit by Maroons during the game
  • But Blues coach Brad Fittler insisted he was happy with Cleary’s performance 

Nathan Cleary has accepted responsibility for New South Wales’ loss in the State of Origin opener on Wednesday night, acknowledging the defeat was a much-needed ‘reality check’.

Queensland took the lead in the series after a thrilling 16-10 win at Accor Stadium in Game 1, the Maroons’ first in Sydney since 2017. 

The top point scorer in last year’s series, Cleary looked uncharacteristically below par as the Blues’ attacking game never fully clicked into gear. 

Nathan Cleary had a very difficult night as New South Wales lost the Origin opener 16-10

Nathan Cleary had a very difficult night as New South Wales lost the Origin opener 16-10

‘I didn’t play well enough and that affects the result,’ the Penrith star said after the game.  

‘It is on me to get better, and if I am better the rest of the team is too.

‘You have never fully got the game worked out. You think you are going alright and then a game like this happens. Sometimes it is not a bad thing.

‘It is a reality check that I need to get better, but win or lose [I’ll] get in the next day and I will keep striving to get better – and it is no different this time.’  

The Blues halfback was repeatedly hassled by Queensland players on his kicks on Wednesday

The Blues halfback was repeatedly hassled by Queensland players on his kicks on Wednesday

Cleary was pressured 13 times while kicking and hit in seven of those occasions

Cleary was pressured 13 times while kicking and hit in seven of those occasions

Queensland deserve credit for Cleary and New South Wales being so off colour offensively. 

The Maroons targeted the Blues No7 relentlessly throughout the game, applying pressure on his kicks and hitting him as often as possible.

According to Fox Sports data, Cleary was pressured 13 times when kicking the ball. On seven of those occasion, a Queensland player managed to follow through to make contact with him.

So far this season, Cleary had never been pressured more than 12 times when kicking and had never been hit more than four times in the process – both in the win against Souths in Round 4. 

The Maroons never allowed the Penrith star to settle into this groove on Wednesday night

The Maroons never allowed the Penrith star to settle into this groove on Wednesday night

Constantly under pressure from Queensland, Cleary couldn't get going in Sydney

Constantly under pressure from Queensland, Cleary couldn’t get going in Sydney 

With the New South Wales middle forwards struggling on Wednesday night, Queensland players had a far easier route to Cleary than at club level – where he is normally sheltered by Moses Leota and James Fisher-Harris.

Ben Hunt, Pat Carrigan and Reuben Cotter all got to Cleary on Wednesday night.

‘Queensland got to him when he was kicking the ball,’ Maroons assistant coach Cameron Smith told SEN. 

‘Which meant that the back three for Queensland, particularly Kalyn Ponga, he was able to get the ball into really good field position.’

The Blues never clicked into gear offensively and lost in Sydney for the first time since 2017

The Blues never clicked into gear offensively and lost in Sydney for the first time since 2017

Former Penrith star Mark Geyer echoed Smith’s stance, noting the Blues did not have a contingency plan to cope with the pressure Queensland put on their halfback.

‘NSW didn’t have a plan B for Nathan Cleary’s kicking game,’ the former New South Wales and Australia second-rower told Triple M. 

‘They hassled him all night. In fact, I’ve never seen Nathan Cleary after a game so battered and bruised.

Reuben Cotter (right) was one of the Queensland players to get to Cleary on Wednesday night as the Maroons carried out tactical instructions from coach Billy Slater (left) to perfection

Reuben Cotter (right) was one of the Queensland players to get to Cleary on Wednesday night as the Maroons carried out tactical instructions from coach Billy Slater (left) to perfection 

Cleary wasn’t the only Blues to player to be under par at Accor Stadium and New South Wales coach Brad Fittler insisted the Panthers halfback ‘was good’ in Game One. 

‘I don’t think we had very quick play-the-balls,’ Fittler, who handed Cleary his Blues debut in 2018, told the Sydney Morning Herald. 

‘I spoke to him after the game and he wasn’t that happy with his kicking. Apart from that, he was very strong in every other part of his game.’ 

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