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KURT GIDLEY: Blues don't need to panic but must change tactics, bench for Origin II

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Expert
9th June, 2022
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NSW don’t need to make wholesale changes for Origin II but I’d be making one key tweak to their bench and taking a different tactical approach after what we saw in game one on Wednesday night.

Brad Fittler will work on the Blues’ wrestle a bit more between now and the second game in Perth to slow the play-the-ball down.

Queensland got away with a fair bit and they were clever with how they did it.

We all know that the referee won’t blow as many penalties in Origin so you can get away with a bit more in the tackles and push the envelope a bit by rushing up in the defensive line and they exploited that better than NSW.

They nullified the Penrith connection of Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai and Isaah Yeo, as well as James Tedesco when the ball eventually got to him.

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Every time Yeo got the ball he’d have defenders rushing at him, limiting his time and space, stopping NSW putting any shape on in their attack.

Daniel Tupou tackled in Origin

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

I think NSW when they review the video they’ll be looking to do that style of game a lot more in Perth, whether it’s slowing the play down in the tackle, putting your hands on the footy to make sure there’s not a quick play-the-ball, getting up in the Maroons’ faces. 

The refs are aware that the more they stay out of the game, the better the spectacle is for the fans and Queensland did a better job with that. 

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Unless they’re penalising you, then you might as well keep doing it.

If Queensland are going to rush up in defence, NSW have got to back themselves to kick in behind them to pin them down their end of the field.

Queensland’s kick pressure put Cleary off his game. I think his kicking was not up to his usual high standard and there were a few balls landing in the wrong spots. NSW need to make that same effort from marker to do that to their kickers.

Apart from tactics, the only change I’d make selection wise is to bring in someone on the bench with speed who can get out of dummy half and cause problems for the Queenslanders like what Craig Wing used to do for NSW when I played.

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Apisai Koroisau of the Panthers

Apisai Koroisau (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

There’s not many players like that in the NRL at the moment but the guy I think who would suit that role is Api Koroisau. He’s a good ball player, an attacking threat and you could keep Damien Cook on the field and play two hookers at once like Queensland did when Harry Grant and Ben Hunt were on at the same time.

I’m not a fan of having a specialist centre on the bench so I’m not sure whether Stephen Crichton should stay there. He might end up in the starting side depending on how bad Kotoni Staggs’ shoulder injury turns out to be.

The Blues started with the momentum and I thought that first try was a great set move. Damien Cook skipped the pass out to Cleary and he tipped it on short to Luai and it was a pretty easy try for Jack Wighton in the end.

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I thought they might keep attacking that side after that with Queensland having young Selwyn Cobbo on the wing but there wasn’t too many more set plays through the middle of the game that NSW were able to execute well.

That try just before half-time to Queensland was amazing – it was actually an average pass from Kalyn Ponga but Cobbo picked it up and scooted away and showed a lot of talent to kick infield for Dane Gagai who knows how to sniff out a try as he’s shown plenty of times in 20 Origins now.

I think that was a real momentum shifter just before the break as well as the no-try ruling against Junior Paulo.

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And then in the second half when Paulo was held in the scrum a bit and Daly Cherry-Evans scored, you could see the Maroons were brimming with confidence.

Junior Paulo Origin

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

I think Paulo was held back a little bit but that happens all the time in scrums and it was more a case of Tariq Sims over-reading the play in defence and DCE taking advantage of that.

It was great to see Kalyn back to his best and when he saw a prop in the defensive line for a three on three on a pretty big short side, he just eats them up and it was no surprise to see him set up that try for Valentine Holmes and that period there was where the game was won and lost.

Often those moments can go to waste if a player doesn’t capitalise. I don’t know whether he overcalled someone on the other side to go that way but it worked and that’s the kind of player he is.

I liked that Cook was running off quick play-the-balls in the last 20 minutes and NSW were playing more off-the-cuff football on the back of that.

Cameron Murray’s late try was a well-worked move and the Blues went very close there at the end but I thought it was all a bit too little, too late.

The Maroons were better in the big moments and that’s one of the main reasons why they won the game.

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