The New South Wales Blues have forced a State of Origin decider, dominating the Queensland Maroons to the tune of 38-6 on a wet night in Perth.
In front of 59,721 fans at Optus Stadium, the Blues put in their best performance in the Origin arena for many years, never giving Queensland a chance.
They had a tremendous start to the game, outplaying the Maroons in a frenetic first half. Brad Fittler’s men opened the scoring through Tom Trbojevic when the new centre soared over Kalyn Ponga to latch onto a James Maloney bomb.
Maloney well and truly justified his selection on his Origin return. After the Maroons got their first points through a penalty try when Jack Wighton blocked Will Chambers as the Queensland centre tried to latch onto a Daly Cherry-Evans grubber, Maloney started to dominate for the Blues.
First, he put Tyson Frizell away as the St George forward crashed over to put NSW back in front, and followed it up with a 40-20 the next set as heavy rain hit the Optus Stadium deck for the first time.
But the highlight of the first 40 minutes was a superb break down the left by James Tedesco. After standing up a number of Queensland defenders and surging into the backfield, the fullback offloaded for Trbojevic to race away for his second of the night and extend the lead to 18-6.
That scoreline lasted until half-time, but was pushed out further when the Blues were handed two penalties in the first ten minutes of the second half.
And despite losing Nathan Cleary to injury, forcing Wade Graham to five-eighth and Maloney into halfback, it got even better for New South Wales soon after. Josh Addo-Carr tore away down the left wing, and, in spite of the torrential conditions, offloaded for Tedesco.
In a piece of skill even better than his first assist, the fullback drew opposite number Kalyn Ponga a slipped a flick-pass to Trbojevic to put him away for his hat-trick – the first New South Welshman to score three tries in the one Origin match since Matt King in 2005.
When Addo-Carr scored a try of his own just minutes later off a neat grubber from Graham, the game was all over with more than 20 minutes to play. Much like with Trbojevic’s hat-trick, it was the first time since the decider of that 2005 series that New South Wales passed 30 in a single Origin.
Queensland did enjoy some better field position towards the end of the match on the back of a number of penalties – which some of the more cynical fans may argue were square-ups after the Blues enjoyed a number earlier in the half – but were unable to add any respectability to the scoreline.
Instead, it was New South Wales who scored again, Addo-Carr grabbing his second to put the icing on an outstanding performance from the Blues.
The result is a clear vindication of Fittler’s controversial changes to his side for Game 2. The new inclusions to the side were all outstanding, particularly Maloney, Trbojevic, Graham and Dale Finucane, and the defence which looked so leaky in Brisbane was watertight in Perth.