New South Wales have wrapped up the 2021 State of Origin series in straight sets, putting Queensland away with a second straight flogging in Brisbane. Here are my talking points from the game.
Ronaldo Multialo being scrubbed out was a farce
Unless you were living a rock all day, you’d know Ronaldo Mulitalo had his Origin debut taken away from him by a technicality in the eligibility rules.
There are plenty of layers to unpack from the fiasco which marred match day, with Mulitalo only originally called in as an injury replacement himself for fullback Reece Walsh, who broke down at yesterday’s captain’s run.
While some will wonder why anyone would have complained, the bottom line is that everyone involved in selecting teams knows the eligibility rules.
More worryingly, this isn’t a new issue. The fact Mulitalo has played for Queensland in junior Origins, yet was called out before the biggest game of his life is a major blight on the NRL’s showpiece event.
Rubbing Mulitalo out of the fixture would have been the right decision if the verdict was decided upon months, or even years ago, but it most certainly wasn’t the right decision when the verdict came just hours before the game started.
There must be better processes put in place to avoid a repeat of this situation.
More Origin 2
» REPORT: Blues stifle Maroons to claim series
» Origin 2, as it happened: Play-by-play commentary
» VIDEO: Trbojevic’s sensational try-saver on Coates
» VIDEO: Latrell’s amazing intercept try
Where do Queensland go next?
For the first time in Queensland’s State of Origin history, the Maroons have been held to nil at Lang Park.
Granted, Queensland haven’t played a minute of this series at full strength like it could be argued the Blues have, but their performances simply haven’t been good enough no matter which way you look at it.
They will have to find a way to front up for Game 3 and, despite the fact Kalyn Ponga and Harry Grant will be back, there is simply not enough one or two returning players could do to change the way this series has played out.
The problem when looking at the long-term ramifications of this series for the Maroons is that they don’t have the talent coming through to match a New South Wales side who are only likely to get better.
Brad Fittler’s team are, for the most part, still quite youthful with long careers ahead of them. Nathan Cleary has only played a small handful of Origin series, while Jarome Luai was on debut. Match that with players like Tom Trbojevic, Payne Haas and Latrell Mitchell, and this could well be a New South Wales dynasty on the way.
Dynasty isn’t a word I like using around the Origin arena, because it is so, so hard to create one. Queensland did it, but they had the best team ever rolled out onto a rugby league field.
Queensland, to turn things around in the coming years, will have to focus on using the feelings of this series and turning them into something positive, however, you feel they are better than they showed across the two games.
Whether it be Cameron Munster, Daly Cherry-Evans, the forwards who will only gain more experience as well, or the return of players like Ponga, they will improve.
Enough to stop the Blues though? Big, big changes are needed if that is to become a reality.
James Tedesco is still the best option to play fullback
It’s not as if James Tedesco was quiet during Game 1, but he picked his stage as Suncorp Stadium to remind us why he has been the best fullback, and the best player, in the game for some years now.
While other fullbacks in Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trbojevic, who played in the centres, were again outstanding in their roles, roaming all over the park and putting Queensland on the back foot, it was Tedesco who stole the show.
His work on the right-hand side of the Blues attack and combination with Josh Addo-Carr, was simply outstanding, but the man they call Teddy was popping up everywhere.
Through the middle of the park, he barely put a foot wrong, and it shows in some ridiculously good final numbers.
234 metres, a pair of try assists, ten tackle busts, four offloads, and only a minor error with no missed tackles in what was a complete 80-minute performance from Tedesco.
More importantly though, it’s clear to see just how good of a communicator Tedesco is. His work in organising the Blues defensive line was phenomenal right throughout the series, and just six points scored by the Maroons in 160 minutes of football is testament to his contributions.
Cameron Munster has had next to no influence and it shows
Stretching the mind back to the 2020 State of Origin series, where Queensland put on a performance for the ages to create one of Origin’s greatest ever upsets, and it was little surprise that their main man was star half Cameron Munster.
He was everywhere last year, and the difference in the one game the Blues won was, quite literally, his presence on the field.
But this year, Munster struggled to get into either game, and it shows on the final scoreboard. I wrote before the series started that if Queensland were to make any headway against the ferocious attacking outfit rolled out by their opposition, Munster would have to have a monumentally large series.
But simply put, he didn’t. He had next to no involvement in Game 2, and even the parts he could control defensively, were of no use. Munster had racked up six missed tackles by half time, and ended the game with eight.
While the Melbourne-based half showed a little more attacking intent in the second half, the game was already dead and buried. Game 3 might be a dead rubber, but Queensland need to see something out of Munster.
Payne Haas off the bench at Origin level makes a difference
Judging by the way Queensland started the game, it was easy to tell just how much the Game 1 loss stung them. The first defensive set the Maroons strung together was simply outstanding, pinning the Blues close to their own tryline until a run from Tariq Sims broke the shackles.
Still, the opening in defence by Queensland set the tone for the first quarter of an hour, and New South Wales fans would have been more than just slightly nervous at the way things were beginning to shape up.
The Blues might have scored the opening try, but just when forwards from both teams were starting to slow down, on came Payne Haas. It might have coincided with Latrell Mitchell’s intercept and length of the field try, which certainly broke the Queensland spirit, but it’s impossible to underplay the role Haas had in putting his team right on top of the contest.
The numbers he churned out are only fractionally below the series opener, but with 105 metres from 11 runs, with 44 of those post-contact, and 24 tackles, he was a constant presence for New South Wales in the middle third during his stint on the park.
It means the Blues could go from in the contest to right on top of it in a matter of minutes, and without Moeaki Fotuaika playing quite as well as he did in Game 1, Queensland didn’t stand a chance through the middle portion of the game.
Defence into attack wins the series
The Blues attack has been outstanding this series, but none one bit of it would have been possible without the way New South Wales have defended.
There is no clearer example of it than in the 73rd minute, at 26-0 and with the game done and dusted, Kyle Feldt ran onto a grubber from Daly Cherry-Evans, only to be robbed of the try by a desperate, scrambling Brian To’o.
The whole team then raced in and mobbed To’o, celebrating his effort.
There was a similar moment in the closing minutes of Game 1, and plenty of others which you could point at through the series which have set the difference between New South Wales and Queensland.
New South Wales were then able to use that defensive structure and ability, combined with the pressure they put the Maroons under, and turn it into an attack which is better than just about any in recent memory.
It was the complete performance, an unbelievable mark on coach Fittler, and the way New South Wales prepared for the game.
More than that, it’s exactly how rugby league should be played
Roarers, what did you make of Game 2? Drop a comment and let us know.