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Another Blues masterclass sees NSW claim the series as the post-mortem begins in Queensland

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Roar Guru
27th June, 2021
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For just the fourth time since 2005, the State of Origin Shield will end up in Blue hands, after New South Wales thrashed Queensland 26-0 in Game 2 at Suncorp Stadium to wrap up the series and give themselves the chance to claim their first series clean sweep since 2000.

The lead-up to Game 2 centred around the Maroons’ bombshell decision to select Warriors whiz-kid Reece Walsh to make his Origin debut at fullback, only for those plans to be scuppered when the 18-year-old suffered a hamstring injury at training on Saturday morning.

Ronaldo Mulitalo was then promoted to make his debut, after initially being named as the 19th man, only to be denied his opportunity after it was revealed that he moved to Australia at age 14, a year after his 13th birthday (which was the cutoff), having been born in New Zealand.

After their humiliating Game 1 loss in Townsville, the Maroons brought back experienced campaigners Ben Hunt, Andrew McCullough and Josh Papalii in a bid to add some grunt to their side, while the Blues brought in Angus Crichton for Jake Trbojevic.

There was drama for the Blues when they were plunged into lockdown the day before the match, with the players all forced back into bubble conditions after the coronavirus situation in greater Sydney continued (and is still continuing) to deteriorate.

That prompted Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to close her state’s border to all residents from greater Sydney, and with Sydneysiders already in Brisbane forced into lockdown, it meant they would not be permitted to attend the second Origin match as they had originally planned.

But not even that could prevent the Blues fans who had either arrived from non-hotspot areas or were already living in Brisbane from filing into the stadium in the hopes of seeing their side claim their third series in four years, and just their fourth since 2005.

By contrast, the majority of the crowd of over 52,000 who turned up to Suncorp were decked out in maroon hoping to see their side rebound from their Game 1 humiliation at a ground where their side was undefeated since Game 1, 2017.

To the match itself, and the Blues picked up from where they left off in Game 1, scoring first in the 11th minute through Josh Addo-Carr.

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Josh Addo-Carr scores a try in Queensland

Josh Addo-Carr scored the opening try of Origin 2. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

The Maroons looked poised to hit back when James Tedesco knocked on while trying to catch the ball, thus putting them on the attack at close range.

Well, that was until Latrell Mitchell took an intercept pass and ran 90 metres to score the Blues’ second try, and the conversion from Nathan Cleary saw them take a 12-0 lead.

Another try to Tom Trbojevic, his fourth for the series, saw the Blues enter halftime with an 18-0 lead, all but ensuring New South Wales would claim the series and dashing any hopes Queensland had of salvaging the series on their home turf.

A penalty goal to Cleary ten minutes into the second half saw them extend their lead to 20-0, and the score would remain that way until Addo-Carr scored his second try to complete the rout, the final score reading 26-0.

In between, the Maroons were denied two tries – first after replays showed that Dane Gagai’s elbow touched the dead ball line in the motion of scoring, and the second when Kyle Feldt was stripped of the ball by Brian To’o when attempting to plant the ball for the try.

Addo-Carr’s heroics aside, captain James Tedesco was best on ground, while Cameron Murray and Latrell Mitchell were also among their best-performed players as the Blues dominated at will.

Having entered this year’s series under some pressure after last year’s shock series defeat, Brad Fittler can breathe a little easier now, having guided the Blues back to the promised land where he hopes to keep them for as long as he remains the coach.

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It is the first time since 2000 that the Blues have won a Game 2 in Brisbane, and the first time since 2018, Brad Fittler’s first year as NSW coach, that the Blues have won the first two games of a series.

They now have the chance to complete their first series clean-sweep in 21 years in Game 3, but where it is to be played remains to be seen, with the chances of Stadium Australia hosting it decreasing as the Harbour City’s coronavirus crisis continues to deteriorate.

If they score at least 28 points in the third game, it will break their record for the most points in an Origin series, eclipsing the 104 points they scored across the three games in their dominant 2000 series whitewash.

Their series win has also no doubt brought some much-needed joy to the millions of Sydneysiders who are currently plunged in a COVID-19 lockdown which began over the weekend.

On the flipside, not only did Queensland suffer yet another embarrassing defeat on state soil, they were also, for the first time ever, kept scoreless at Suncorp Stadium.

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The 26-0 washout also means they have lost the first two games by a combined scoreline of 6-76, having lost the first game by 50-6 in Townsville.

Queensland Maroons players look dejected after losing the 2021 Origin series

Daly Cherry-Evans is absolutely dejected after the Maroons lose Game 2, and the series. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

And while the third game is only two-and-a-half weeks away, there are already fears as to what the scoreline will be, with the Blues expected to go in for the kill in the third game, whether or not it’s played in New South Wales.

Even so, the post-mortem into their crushing series defeat has already begun in earnest, with captain Daly Cherry-Evans saying post-match on Channel Nine, “They [the Blues] were just too good [and the] score-line reflected that.”

It is also a very clear indication that the Maroons are no longer the team they used to be, even if eight years have elapsed since they won the last in a string of eight consecutive Origin series between 2006 and 2013 inclusive.

For coach Paul Green, their series defeat, which comes as the Brisbane Broncos continue to struggle in clubland, should surely serve as a learning curve as he tries to prepare his side for the third game (with someone even asking, “What’s the point of Game 3?” while Channel Nine were off-camera).

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We have seen the Maroons bounce back in the past, none more so than in 2001, when, with supercoach Wayne Bennett back in tow, they won the series only twelve months after being whitewashed by the most dominant New South Wales side in Origin history.

That series, Bennett made a masterstroke by bringing in Allan Langer from the English Super League for the third game, and it paid off when he led the Maroons to a crushing 40-14 win at the Queensland Sports and Athletics Centre (then known as ANZ Stadium).

But that’s a matter for next year – as the focus now turns to whether the Blues can clean-sweep the series or whether the Maroons can salvage something from the wreckage in Game 3 in a few weeks’ time.

Maroons fans who need some joy out of last night’s humiliation can take some heart that their women’s team has managed to successfully defend the Origin Shield, tying the series at two wins apiece after the Origin banner took effect in 2018.

Led by captain Ali Brigginshaw, the Maroons won the standalone match by 8-6 with Lauren Brown potting over a penalty goal at the death after Filomina Hanisi was penalised for a leg pull inside the final 100 seconds.

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Only one try was scored by both sides, with Isabelle Kelly scoring for the Blues after just four minutes and Destiny Brill doing likewise for the Maroons in the 23rd minute.

With the looming expansion of the NRL Women’s competition (it was announced earlier this month that the Newcastle Knights, Parramatta Eels and Gold Coast Titans will join the league), there are growing calls for the women’s Origin format to be expanded to three games, thus matching the men’s format.

Whether that happens remains to be seen.

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