Rugby league: NSW star Joseph Sua'a'li'i faces ban for sickening high tackle in State of Origin opener

New South Wales's new era got off to a shocking start, losing 38-10 to Queensland in State of Origin Game I after playing more than 70 minutes down to 12 men.

Joseph Sua'a'li'i was sent off by referee Ashley Klein following a horror high, late hit on Queensland fullback Reece Walsh after just eight minutes.

Despite playing a man down, the Blues gave a brave account of themselves, playing for long periods deep inside the Maroons' half, scoring two tries through James Tedesco and Zac Lomax.

However, the Maroons struck often and brutally to seal victory thanks to a hat-trick from Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, a Ben Hunt brace and a try to Xavier Coates.

All the post-match discussion will centre on the send off of Sua'ali'i, with Blues skipper Jake Trbojevic saying he "didn't expect him to get sent off; just because of the enormity of the game", and coach Michael Maguire describing it as a "big call" in the post-match press conference.

But despite the protestations of the Blues, there could be no argument on the justification for the sixth send-off in Origin history.

Part of the Blues' game plan clearly centred around targeting the Broncos fullback - Walsh was first hit late after making his very first kick of the game.

Sua'ali'i is sent off.
Sua'ali'i is sent off. Photo credit: Getty Images

But Sua'ali'i took matters too far with a shocking charge that left the 21-year-old Queenslander stricken on the Olympic stadium turf and Billy Slater seething in the coaches box, telling Channel 9 that they would not want to know his immediate thoughts on the tackle.

One-time rugby union target Sua'ali'i flew out of the line and, leaving the ground as he did so, made high contact with the point of his shoulder to the head of Walsh, leaving referee Klein few options.

"Very dangerous action, direct contact to the head with the shoulder. You're off," said Klein in front of stunned Blues skipper Jake Trbojevic and a shocked 80,000-strong crowd.

The NRL later hit Sua'a'li'i with a four-game ban for a reckless high tackle with an early plea, which will raise up to five should he fight the charge and lose.

The Maroons had already taken the lead in the contest, using a seven-tackle set to charge upfield off the back of a powerful Jeremiah Nanai charge.

Player of the match Daly Cherry-Evans picked and went off the fifth-tackle play from dummy half, surprising the Blues' left-edge defence, before passing inside to Hunt who crashed over for the opening score.

The 12-man Blues recovered well from the initial shock of Sua'ali'i's send-off, Jarome Luai cutting back against the grain on the last tackle before poking a kick through for last-minute recalled Tedesco to score under the posts.

However, the Maroons ran rampant with two near-identical tries, targeting the undermanned right edge defence.

Offloads from Jayden Su'A and Selwyn Cobbo saw Murray Taulagi gather one-handed down the undermanned right side of the Blues defence, before Tabuai-Fidow received the final pass to continue his exceptional Origin scoring record.

Soon after, the Maroons again moved the ball to that weak right side, Cobbo again playing a massive role in setting up the try.

Running to the left touchline, Cobbo bumped off Zac Lomax and then drove through the ineffectual Hynes to offload to Taulagi, who once again found Tabuai-Fidow to score.

Having fielded questions about the merits of Cobbo's selection on the bench, Billy Slater will have felt vindicated immediately, his side leading 20-6 after just 25 minutes.

The Blues though, did not give up - at half-time they had made 24 play-the-balls inside the Maroons' 20. The Maroons, just one.

A big part of that dominance was Spencer Leniu's introduction, who ran hard from the moment he entered the field and could have scored but for some more Tabuai-Fidow brilliance, getting himself under the Roosters forward before wrestling the ball out of his hands.

After the half-time break the Blues again started brightly and added another short-handed score, Lomax leaping high to gather a pin-point Hynes kick over the head of Cobbo to galvanise the crowd and have the Blues players dreaming of a miracle comeback so common of those orchestrated by Queensland down the years.

However, the Maroons broke the tiring Blues' hearts, first with the tightest of 40:20 kicks from Cherry-Evans, then by scoring two length-of-the-field scores to win the game.

The first was finished by Hunt, ending a move that saw Cobbo and Valentine Holmes to break the line up to half way, with Hunt finishing things off from 40 metres.

Then, moments later, Hunt saved a try with a tackle of Crichton, before Isaah Yeo threw an intercept to Cherry-Evans, who was chased down 30 metres from the line, his perfect kick sitting up nicely for Xavier Coates to dot down.

Tabuai-Fidow finished things off for the Maroons, completing his hat-trick with his eighth Origin try in just his fifth appearance.

In the cold light of day, the Blues will be able to take plenty from the match despite the defeat as they look ahead of the series' second match at the MCG on 26 June.