The New South Wales Blues have evened up the 2020 State of Origin series with a thumping 32-10 win, crushing the Queensland Maroons to go into next week’s decider as favourites.
A coming-of-age performance from Nathan Cleary was the catalyst and was complemented by a great game out of five-eighth by Cody Walker. Vastly improved performances from Game 1’s maligned centres pairing also helped, while the Maroons sorely missed the prodigal kicking of Cameron Munster – who left the game early with concussion.
The incident that led to his concussion was controversial, with Munster heading off for head injury assessment – which he would later fail – after his head hit the turf very hard from what looked to be a clear midair tackle by Tyson Frizell that went unpunished by referee Gerard Sutton.
But the Maroons were undeterred and started the game the better of the two sides, threatening the Blues line early. Josh Papalii lost the ball going close early in the piece, but Xavier Coates crossed in the seventh minute with a spectacular dive to the corner – avoiding the corner post by a coat of paint.
The Blues were frustrated early, giving away a fair few penalties inside the first 15 minutes to gift the Maroons territory and extra sets – but they turned it around before the 20-minute mark to take the lead.
Nathan Cleary got the Blues close to the line with a great line break, before a superb spin move by Cody Walker saw him bust through the remaining defence to score. Cleary had no issues with the conversion to put NSW up. The Blues then put their foot on the pedal, with James Tedesco breezing through some ordinary Queensland defence to help make it 12-4.
The Blues spent most of the rest of the half in Queensland’s half of the ground, threatening to score – thanks to a blistering first half by Cleary. They broke through late, with a Coates knock-on gifting the Blues another set close to the line and they cashed in – Josh Addo-Carr stepped around Phillip Sami and Ben Hunt on the right edge to cross for NSW’s third.
Munster’s succumbing to a concussion wasn’t the only injury concern in the first half, with Tyson Frizell also coming off for a head injury assessment – but he would pass his.
Any worries Brad Fittler had of a collapse akin to the second half of Game 1 were assuaged early, with Jack Wighton muscling his way past several Maroons defenders in the left corner to cross for a fourth NSW try.
Cleary’s kicking game continued to wreak havoc with Queensland, who were sorely missing the output they relied on from Munster in Game 1. The Blues could seemingly do no wrong, planting the flag deep in Queensland territory, keeping the sets rolling and the ball alive to give their opponents no hope of mounting a comeback.
Again, a Maroons knock on deep in defence gifted the Blues a scrum in prime territory, and they were caught with three defenders on four attackers for the second time – allowing Daniel Tupou to cross with ease in the corner off the first play.
Tempers flared close to the hour mark, with seeing Payne Haas and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui sin binned after both teams ignored Sutton’s pleas to back off from the biff. It took a while for the fracas to spark Queensland, but they were the next to score after Josh Papalii put bowled Damien Cook over to score after receiving a short pass from Daly Cherry-Evans.
But their hopes of a comeback soon evaporated after a massive blunder by Phillip Sami. Cody Walker sent an excellent grubber off the outside of the boot to the corner, but Sami stood passively and tried to let it bounce into touch, allowing Addo-Carr to pounce and put the result beyond doubt.
The sting went out of the game from there, with the Blues controlling the pace of the game and cruising to a big Game 2 win that swings the pendulum back in their favour ahead of next week’s decider.
NSW Blues – 34
Queensland Maroons – 10
Blues: Walker (16′), Tedesco (22′), Addo-Carr (39′, 66′), Wighton (42′), Tupou (53′)
Maroons: Coates (7′), Papalii (63′)
Blues: Cleary 5/7 (18′, 23′, 39′, 44′, 79′)
Maroons: Holmes 1/2 (64′)