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The Roar



Pack mentality must improve: Blues need good old-fashioned engine-room grunt in Origin 2

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22nd June, 2022

Both NSW and Queensland took eight men into the first match of the 2022 Origin series with a core mission to lay a platform off which the talented men outside them could capitalise.

History will show despite a late surge from the Blues in the second half, Queensland were the better side for much of the contest and unsurprisingly, the data suggests their win was established via the most old-fashioned and proven method: hard-fought metres through the centre of the field and its fringes.

The subsequent momentum built allowed the likes of Cameron Munster and Daly Cherry-Evans to attack a retreating and often unsettled defensive line, with Munster in particular putting on a masterclass of eyes-up play in second-phase and broken-field situations.

Coach Brad Fittler has responded emphatically, with Angus Crichton and Jake Trbojevic brought in to increase the forward grunt that was missing significantly at times in Game 1, with Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Tariq Sims and Ryan Matterson rightfully making way after unconvincing performances in Sydney.


Siosifa Talakai will also debut and should the backline remain uninjured and his services there not be required, the powerhouse’s minutes could well be mostly played in the forwards, a role he is more than comfortable filling.

That throws something quite different at the Maroons and raises questions in regards to whether Fittler nailed things at the selection table first time around. It appears not.

Based purely off the numbers, the majority of the men charged with taking on the Queenslanders up the middle failed to deliver and ultimately shoulder responsibility for the loss.

Payne Haas (143) and Isaah Yeo (146) can at least hold their heads high in terms of metres made, with Campbell-Gillard the only other New South Welsh forward to crack the century, with 106 metres, despite playing what looked no better than an average game.


Cameron Murray, Sims, Junior Paulo, Liam Martin and Matterson mustered just 308 as a collective, with a considerable amount coming late in the game and not when required earlier.

Junior Paulo of the Blues passes

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

On the other side of the ledger, Queensland’s effort reeked of an old-school, hard-nosed and uncompromising approach that NSW appeared to have forgone for a showier and more expansive game that was destined to be taken advantage of by the visitors.

Tino Fa’asuamaleaui (131), Kurt Capewell (145) Rueben Cotter (134) Lindsay Collins (133) and Patrick Carrigan (183) laid a foundation that dwarfed the best five Blues by 726-562 metres and laid that metaphorical platform every rugby league team craves.


Munster and co. played superbly off the back of this momentum, before the Blues found some traction late in the game. NSW’s sheer quality is evidenced in the fact that they came within a metre/second of pulling off the most remarkable of comebacks.

However, Fittler’s abrupt changes reveal a clear coaching reality. Against a Queensland pack that, despite the loss of Cotter to injury, will come again in waves with a series win just 80 minutes away, the Blues need to get down and dirty in the trenches and match the men in Maroon through the middle.

NSW failed to do so in the opening match of the series, now face two matches on the road, and a hostile and historically mighty challenge in Brisbane should they hope to claim the trophy.

Cameron Munster Game 1 Origin

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)


And that opportunity will be killed off quickly unless an improved performance up front leads to a win in the west.

It looks a mighty tricky row to hoe, with the new men up front required to more successfully match what is an underrated and mostly unheralded Queensland pack.

The Blues failed to do so in Sydney and while Munster, Cherry-Evans and Selwyn Cobbo may have drawn the majority of the headlines, the game was won elsewhere.

If the Maroons are to once again dominate through the middle, NSW may well be left grasping at straws, with Fittler’s selection criteria coming seriously under question.


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