With no guarantees of a home game in this year’s State of Origin series, there will be no time like the present for the New South Wales Blues to wrap things up in straight sets against the Queensland Maroons when the two sides clash in Game 2 this evening at Suncorp Stadium.
More Origin 2
» REPORT: Blues stifle Maroons to claim series
» TALKING POINTS: Where do Queensland go from here?
» Origin 2, as it happened: Play-by-play commentary
» VIDEO: Latrell’s amazing intercept try
» VIDEO: Trbojevic’s sensational try-saver on Coates
Game 1 was an absolute bloodbath. There is no other way to describe it, with the Blues running riot over the Maroons.
By the time it was all said and done, New South Wales had run up 50, and frankly, without any of their spine being amongst the best two players on ground.
Given the absolute attacking power and might in the spine for New South Wales, that must be a daunting thought for Queensland as they desperately look for a way back into this year’s series.
Embarrassing simply wouldn’t do it justice if they were to be swept 2-0 with both of those games on Queensland soil, and it could yet be all three given the COVID situation in Sydney, which is worsening by the day.
In a similar vain to the way Melbourne was forced to lose Game 1, there is plenty of talk that Stadium Australia won’t be hosting any potential series decider, and so the Blues will be more than just a little keen to not give up any momentum in this year’s Sunday contest.
That isn’t going to come quite as easy though. One would expect Queensland to be fired up after the debacle in Townsville, but not just that, New South Wales have had a rather interrupted preparation.
Right down to the whole side needing COVID tests upon landing in the Queensland capital yesterday, to their families not being allowed to attend and needing to hire new Brisbane-based doctors for the match, it has been a rough patch for the Blues as they scramble over the border so the match can go ahead.
It remains to be seen how much, if any, impact the broken preparation will have on New South Wales, but given how many lengths ahead of Queensland they were in the series opener, there will need to be an enormous change for the result to flip.
While the series opener was all about the impact and influence of centres Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trbojevic, there is a feeling Game 2 might be just a little different.
Queensland will no doubt put defensive strategies in place to control those two, and the axing of Xavier Coates is a sign of clear intent for Kevin Walters. But, they have so many other weapons to contain, whether it be Penrith’s halves combination of Jarome Luai and Nathan Cleary, who have been involved in more than 30 tries across 12 club games this year, or James Tedesco, who is often best on ground at Origin level.
Tedesco may be the biggest threat in Game 2, but then, so too is the Blues forwards, who simply dominated their opposition in Townsville.
Rolling down the middle for fun, and helped immensely by the impact of Payne Haas off the bench, Queensland’s middle third will have the same to look forward to handling this time around.
In saying that, the Maroons will be better equipped thanks to the return of Josh Papalii. It’s also worth remembering Christian Welch barely played in Game 1 after being taken out in the first ten minutes with a failed HIA.
The duo playing big minutes will serve to help the Maroons chances, with both running around 150 metres per average per game this year and being solid defensively, but whether it sparks enough of a change is up for debate.
Queensland’s overall preparation was looking far better too, until debutant Reece Walsh went down in the captain’s run on Saturday. It means Valentine Holmes, the NRL’s most error-prone player, will be back at fullback, allowing Ronaldo Mulitalo to debut on the wing.
Holmes being at the back is a major disadvantage for the Maroons, given how often he drops the ball, and the poor level of performance he put in during the opener.
Still, the rest of the spine is more settled. Andrew McCullough is one of the best defensive hookers in the game, and will toughen up the middle third, while club form from both Cameron Munster and Daly Cherry-Evans, as well as what they produced in Origin last year, suggests they are much better than what was served up in Game 1.
Even then, it will matter little what the halves combination dish up if they are being belted for metres, possession and territory, and on the back of a superb outside backs line-up (Brian To’o leads all players for run metres this season), the Blues had no problems doing that in Townsville.
That all being said, it’s clear to see why Fitter’s side go in as favourites, and heavy ones at that.
The only solace for Queensland fans, besides the COVID situation facing the Blues, is their record at Suncorp Stadium. Overall, excellent, but in the last decade, they have dropped just two of 14 games at the venue.
That is enough to send a shiver down the spine of any New South Wales fan, despite the gap between the two sides just a few weeks ago.
The Blues had it all their own way in Game 1, and while it’s difficult to see them doing that again, they certainly have the stronger of the two sides by a significant distance.
While their attack gets all the wraps, defensively, they are outstanding as well. Queensland will no doubt make improvements, and the return of Papalii will help things along, but they don’t have it in them to turn around a 44-point deficit and save the series, even with this one being at their happy hunting ground of Lang Park.
Blues by 10.
Kick-off: 7:50pm (AEST)
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
TV: Live, Channel 9
Online: Live, 9Now
Betting odds: Blues $1.21, Maroons $4.60 (odds correct at 6pm Saturday via PlayUp)
Overall record: Played 121, Maroons 64, Blues 55, drawn 2
Origin record at Suncorp Stadium Played 55, Maroons 35, Blues 19, drawn 1
Queensland Maroons (likely)
2. Valentine Holmes, 5. Kyle Feldt, 3. Kurt Capewell, 4. Dane Gagai, 19. Ronaldo Mulitalo, 6. Cameron Munster, 7. Daly Cherry-Evans, 8. Christian Welch, 9. Andrew McCullough, 10. Josh Papalii, 11. Jai Arrow, 12. Felise Kaufusi, 13. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui
Interchange: 14. Ben Hunt, 15. Moeaki Fotuaika, 16. David Fifita, 17. Francis Molo, 18. Coen Hess
New South Wales Blues
1. James Tedesco, 2. Brian To’o, 3. Latrell Mitchell, 4. Tom Trbojevic, 5. Josh Addo-Carr, 6. Jarome Luai, 7. Nathan Cleary, 8. Daniel Saifiti, 9. Damien Cook, 10. Junior Paulo, 11. Cameron Murray, 12. Tariq Sims, 13. Isaah Yeo
Interchange: 14. Jack Wighton, 15. Angus Crichton, 16. Payne Haas, 17. Liam Martin, 18. Apisai Koroisau, 19. Campbell Graham